Recently I spoke with a good friend, the sociologist and theologian Prof. Reimer Gronemeyer, about the history and present of virtues and their importance for our community life. The encounter took place in the context of an interview I conducted for the podcast “Bannbrecher & Dammbrecher” (Spell Breakers & Dam Breakers) Below follows a transcript of the conversation. If you like, you can also listen to the German-language audio file.
Based on his compassion for the weak and disadvantaged and with the clear feeling of living in a time of heightened crises, Reimer Gronemeyer is committed in many ways to maintaining the dialogue between different parts of society. In addition to numerous publications, lectures, association activities and panel discussions, he has traveled to numerous countries in Africa. He observes a vitality and hope among the people there that he misses in Europe.
The lack may be related to the Western general standard of living, which has been rising over a long period of time – a widespread consumerism and materialism, as he has noted on various occasions – that keeps the experiences of the Third Reich from sinking into our collective consciousness more deeply. Alongside the horrors of the looming collapse of the affluent society, however, he sees an opportunity for a new beginning.
The concept of virtue, even if it has a dusty image, could prove useful in this. I had the impression that he was less concerned with the concrete virtues of classical antiquity (temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude) and Christianity (faith, love, hope) as such. Rather, he hopes they might help us remember our roots. Thus, instead of using ideas of competition and self-optimization, we could move through the time of crises with a new set of virtues that fit our culture.
“The greatest danger in which we live is perhaps the ignorance of our past, that everything that is old has to go in favor of an acceleration and innovation society that only looks forward,” he says in the interview. Towards the end, he explains that, in his view, us Westerners, just like the victims of our colonization activities, have lost almost all the cultural roots to which we could connect. It was important to realize that we were sitting on the ruins of a destroyed society before we thought about virtue.
Virtues set challenges for the individual, but they are not a program for self-promotion; they are the glue that binds communities together. It is a matter of opening one’s eyes and senses to one’s fellow man. Reimer Gronemeyer cites as an example the South African virtue “Ubuntu,” which expresses the fundamental experience that we are dependent on others and derive our humanity from looking into the face of our neighbor.
In this understanding, illnesses point to a disturbance in the community and can also be healed again through the support of the community. In Western culture, on the other hand, illness is problematized and handed over to institutions for elimination.
In European culture, instead of virtues, there is now much talk of “Western values” and a “value-based order”. We value something or attach value to it. Reimer Gronemeyer calls this attitude a “moral instant coffee.” “When you no longer want to talk about the Good, then you start talking about values,” he quotes his teacher Ivan Illich. Values belong on the stock market, he believes, not in an ethics debate. The mass uncritical use of this word testifies to an ethical breakdown, which also has to do with the fact that, in line with the current understanding of science, measurable quantities are playing an increasingly important role. The fact that “Western values” are being defended with the help of cluster bombs shows that values can be used for any kind of evil.
We often hear: “Liberty or death,” but those who said it are still alive. Gronemeyer mentions the maxim “death or virtue” in the context of Socrates’ decision not to flee from his henchmen but to stand up for the validity of virtue. When asked if we will just as easily get away with shrugging our shoulders if we do not live according to our confessions, he replies that this challenge is becoming more pressing, but the choice is up to the individual. It depends on personal courage.
The question of virtue, he said, is always also the question of the future of society: are we prepared to support the weak or are we moving toward marginalizing or even “flattening” them?
The sociologist sees the choice of suitable virtues for our time as owed to the situation, less to any dogmatic considerations. For example, he regards it as virtuous to keep open the wound of the painful experiences in his life.
Reimer Gronemeyer finds another central virtue in the consideration of how he should use his remaining life time. However, he cannot give a clear answer to this, he says. “Perhaps what we are particularly lacking at the moment, according to my impression, is the willingness to think critically, to relentlessly question one’s own existence as a question of virtue; in other words, how do we want to live?” he says. He tries to live a life of hospitality and friendship. He also mentions moderation and hope as virtues of personal importance.
Suddenly: calls for forgiveness of Corona crimes out of nowhere. Newsletters, anti-social media, and podcasts are discussing an article in The Atlantic magazine written by a certain Emily Oster. It’s titled “Let’s declare a pandemic amnesty. We need to forgive one another for what we did and said when we were in the dark about Covid.”
There are three things I will not do: first, read the article; second, do a background search on the author; third, write the blank check requested.
I will not read the piece because the headline already puts a lie to it, namely that there was a lack of reliable information on the so-called pandemic. But in fact, since the beginning of March 2020, good arguments have been presented to warn of a false alarm. For three years, Corona dissidents have tirelessly pointed out that every single aspect of this campaign bears signs of deliberate (!) deception and is causing harm. But the author uses the lie of innocent ignorance to justify her demand for amnesty for her anti-life, anti-human behavior.
Who the author is does not interest me, because by using the little word “we” she reveals herself to be a member of the fascistoid cult that planned and committed what is historically probably the most extensive crime against humanity, an unprecedented violation of natural law, causing in many respects irreparable damage – billionfold. She will have somehow earned her prominent position as the mouthpiece of the supposedly contrite, just like all the other “experts,” “authorities,” self-appointed guardians of public health, and so on who seek to evade responsibility through a blanket pardon.
No, I exclude myself from this “we” of hers emphatically. I have addressed the Corona crimes from the beginning of March 2020, have categorically refused any participation in the measures and have received in return some of what you supposed in-the-dark folks “did and said”: censorship in the name of science, torture in the name of health, hate speech in the name of truth, division in the name of solidarity, disenfranchisement in the name of the people.
No, I don’t “need to” do anything at all. Perhaps I will forgive one fellow or the other, but this is on condition that the person has understood the nature of their wrongdoing, expresses this in a credible way – for example, by stepping down from positions of power, by abandoning advantages gained or by making gestures of reparation – and, above all, displays a changed conduct. Anything else would be unreasonable.
No, there is no right to forgiveness; there is certainly no right to forgetting. Forgiveness is an attitude in which the aggrieved party considers their moral claims against the wrongdoer to be settled, after they believe justice has been served. Until then, there is no “Too bad, let’s forget it,” and never a conciliatory “In your place, I might have acted the same way.”
I stood by the truth and I was ready to pay any price for it. Because I know your reasoning; it is false from beginning to end; there is absolutely no doubt about it after careful consideration. Despite your initial panic, this should also have been clear to you after only a few weeks. But for three years you thought you could carry the abuses continuously to new extremes. You have taken out your mental unsteadiness and your sadism on children, old people and on critics, who were exposed to your aggression without protection. You are lying to yourselves if you believe that you can simply wipe away the mess you have caused with a cheap appeal to people’s need for harmony – people who you helped wearing down through propaganda, silencing, coercion and threats to their livelihood.
Have you ever asked yourselves what the difference between people like us alleged covidiots and people like you? Are we just troublemakers who accidentally got their Cassandra calls right? Or is it possible that we were spot-on with our warnings because there was a way to know wrong from right – which we insisted on walking – while you were desperately trying to silence us so you wouldn’t have to hear it? What would happen if you too rejected the claims of those supposedly “in power,” the “authorities,” the “experts,” and the “quality media”? Do you still believe in Osama and the nineteen box cutters? In weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? In concentration camps in Kosovo? In Putin the Terrible?
Why are the main criminals still on the loose? Why are they still in office or in position? Why are you still listening to their tall tales? Why are you still playing by their rules? How credible do you think we consider your conversion, as long as BooTube, FakeBook and InstaCensor continue to define the admissible corridor of opinion while totalitarian laws are still in place?
No, I don’t believe your sudden awakening, I don’t believe in your insight. You did not slip up for three years, you did it on purpose. You would do it again, anytime, because you still believe in the legitimacy of authorities to whom you ultimately subordinate yourselves. You lash out at every scapegoat they point their finger at: the communist, the Muslim, the ‘social parasite’, the Trump voter, the ‘anti-vaxxer’. You learned nothing from history, neither the history told in books, nor the history you helped to shape. You just rage on unabated. For a change, it’s the Russians’ turn to take your beating. Do you see my problem? Probably not. Forgiveness is not an option when the issue in question is far from settled.
To this day, I have not come across anyone who has apologized for their behavior over the past few years. I have also seen no report in your media, which specifies the particular misdeeds, which the aggrieved “need to” forgive now – because you do not understand what went wrong! You would have to be able to look at your total failure as a feeling, thinking human being, yet I do not have the impression that you are capable of it or even just willing. And as long as it stays that way, I can’t trust you, I can’t believe you, and for the time being I can’t forgive you. If that means that society–what is left of it – will come apart, then so be it. I want nothing to do with you and your corrupt institutions until you awaken from your fantasies of total control. Stay away from me with your paranoia. And if you think that your crime will be forgotten with time, then you are waiting in vain.
[Title image: Triumph of Virtue over Vice, by Paolo Veronese]
[Part 3 of a 4-part article series on Auroville & Natural Law]
… In their dreams, though, the first settlers imagined the future city of 50.000 as designed by Mother’s architect, Roger Anger: a circular town in the shape of a galaxy, with huge kilometers-long structures, up to sixty meters high, spiralling out from the Matrimandir, the spiritual center, to the periphery, where a greenbelt consisting of forests, parks and farms would surround the actual settlement. Roger Anger who would have liked to become a better LeCorbusier designed his Auroville draft with no respect to the actual ground realities such as pre-existing settlements, topography or local culture. In Mother’s mind the plan had to reflect an ideal shape that, as with all her teachings, would have to be adapted to new realizations as those unfolded over time…
Early-on, though, and despite the Mother’s warnings her teachings – and, most importantly, the Galaxy plan – ossified into a religious matter with a small portion of the residents. Time and again attempts have been made towards nailing down Roger Anger’s Galaxy once and for all. A so-called Masterplan has been drawn (and re-drawn), presented for residents’ ratification (and questioned), proposed for application with the UNESCO as World Heritage Site (yet not submitted), and projects with the goal of building the so-called Lines of Force, vast mega-structures representing galactic spiral arms, have been initiated (and stopped). Fifty-three years came and went; the township grew slowly but steadily to 3300 residents from sixty countries. Trodden paths, alternating between dusty and muddy conditions, become plastered roads, concrete and rammed-earth structures replaced the simple organic dwellings of the early days. Tropical dry evergreen forests overgrew the once barren plateau and cooled it down significantly. Sunburnt scantly-clad youthful pioneers became “old Aurovilians” who got crowded out by middle-aged middle-class newcomers indulging in uplevel comforts. Our common dream shattered into numerous interest groups, solidarity-based sharing-economy gave way to book-money-powered shopping, and consensus decision-making has been given up for sporadic majority voting while most of the decisions are taken by a de-facto government of committees, the so-called working groups.
In effect, the Natural-Law-compatible Integral Yoga philosophy, for most part, increasingly became seen as describing a Utopian goal to be achieved somewhen in the distant future, among the post-human supermen Sri Aurobindo had envisioned. Mother’s dream still carries some weight today but it has come under severe pressure on the one hand from the left-brainy materialist city builders whose main concerns are money and power issues, and on the other hand from the right-brainy New Age head-in-the-clouds self-improvers who couldn’t care less about the economy so long as they may dwell in spiritual experiences. In this situation, in the township’s fifty-fourth year, India’s central government sent their demolition crew: a new Secretary to the Auroville Foundation and newly-appointed members to the “Governing Board”, one of the three interdependent constitutive bodies of the Foundation. Their mission: Unknown. Their purported goal: To build The City At The Service Of Truth. And henceforth unfolded the coup against Auroville’s right to self-determination which we, the residents, refer to as “The Takeover”.
During the period after Mother’s passing (1973) relationships grew tense between the few hundred Aurovilian pioneers on the barren plateau and the Sri Aurobindo Society in the city of Pondicherry who legally owned Auroville’s lands and buildings. Those interested in the story may read a pamphlet titled “Genesis of the Auroville Foundation Act”. You will find stunning similarity between the SAS’s attempt to keep the emerging township under their thumb and today’s Takeover through the Auroville Foundation. SAS made ridiculous claims which led the whole project into absurdity such as, Auroville were a religious body, despite the Mother’s unambiguous statements to the opposite.
In 1982 the Supreme Court of India transferred the governance of Auroville from the Sri Aurobindo Society to the Government of India (GoI). It did not resolve the conflict, though, and so GoI, in 1988, introduced the Auroville Foundation Act, to provide the framework for Auroville’s development according to the Charter given by the Mother.
In the introduction to the AV Foundation Bill it says:
“As far as the day-to-day activities are concerned, they will be looked after by the residents through appropriate autonomous arrangements, which will include Residents’ Assembly and its Working Committee. The idea underlying this arrangement is that the residents of Auroville should have autonomy so that activities of Auroville can grow under an atmosphere conducive to harmonious growth.”
We obviously have a problem here: On the one hand, Aurovilians ought to be free from external pressure or rule in order to be able to align themselves with the Divine only; on the other hand, there is no law-free place on Earth. Rather than belonging “to nobody in particular” Auroville has been founded in the jurisdiction of the Republic of India, which mandates the registration of land ownership just like every other country on Earth. The closest Auroville could come to its principles, under such conditions, was its anchoring as some kind of state-approved entity which would allow at least collective land-ownership. Chapter III of the Act again emphasizes the importance for self-determined organization for the purpose of advancing Auroville’s goals as defined by the Mother:
“21(4)b: the residents of Auroville are allowed freedom to grow and develop activities and institutions for the fulfilment of the aspirations and programmes envisaged in the said Charter of Auroville.”
The Foundation was supposed to serve as a sandbox within which the residents were sheltered from all the things that come along with the old ways, such as taxation, policing, governing, wage slavery etc. The problem, though, with the obligation to register collectively-owned land under either a trust, a society or a foundation is that these legal entities have to have a governing body, and that this body is endowed with rights and duties determined by law. From there arises a conflict between the duties of the governing body – following man-made laws – and the residents’ freedom from all external rules, to follow a higher Law. It is in this space of opposing requirements that the forces antagonizing Natural Law step in, to seed confusion instead of Truth, randomness instead of Discipline, mistrust instead of harmony, and selfishness instead of Goodwill.
A flat-Earth understanding of writings
The inversion of terms and the false reinterpretation of principles is a typical sign of the decadent stages of a civilization. I have written to this phenomenon a few times already, using the term Dictionary of Falsehoods (see e.g. The Negro Debate All Over Again) Many residents’ own contribution to the undermining of Auroville’s goals, as described in part 1 of this article series, comes about through this channel: by having an erroneous understanding of what is at the core of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, twisted by intellectual blindness or ideological biases, such as hidden religious or materialistic assumptions. These express in literal application of the relevant texts, and the interpreters often neglect the fact that the teachings are not Truth as such; nor do they represent Truth – they are pointers to that-which-is.
Readers who still ask themselves which news media can be trusted to report “the truth” might wonder what I mean by the above sentence. In essence, Truth, in Aurobindan context, is that-which-is – Reality; not yours or mine, THE Reality. Yes, there is such a thing, but one cannot reduce it to words; to its overwhelming part it is not even physical. Words can point out, though, what to look for and where to look for it. Imagine you are on a walk, and as you walk around aimlessly you get hungry. Where the path in front of you is forking you see a signboard pointing to the right; it says, “Restaurant.” Now, the signboard does not fill your stomach – the food at the restaurant does. So you take the right hand path and walk all the way to the real thing, where the actual food is. Only an idiot would stick with the pointer in the hopes of getting satisfied. And yet the world is full of fools obsessed with words instead of dwelling in Truth. Seeking Truth in spiritual texts is just as fruitless as seeking it in any other kind of media, and a literal interpretation of spiritual sources is akin to taking the map for the territory.
And yet the literal interpretation of bits and pieces from the teachings and from the Act is what the forces behind the Takeover of Auroville currently apply – “a flat-Earth understanding,” as one resident aptly called it, of the writings.
Decision-making in Auroville
Within the Foundation’s framework Auroville’s decision-making rests on three pillars, a) the Governing Board (GB), a group whose members are appointed by India’s central government; its role is to support Auroville in achieving its goals within the legal realities of the country; it may “coordinate activities and services,” “review the basic policies and the programmes,” “secure proper management of the properties,” “prepare a master-plan of Auroville” and “authorise and coordinate fund-raising” “in consultation with the Residents’ Assembly”; b) the International Advisory Council (IAC) which consists of five members nominated by India’s central government; its role is to “advise the Governing Board on any matter relating to the development and management of Auroville”, securing the encouragement of its ideals and the freedom of the residents to fulfill their aspirations according to the Charter; and c) the Residents’ Assembly (RA), the entirety of the adult residents. Most decisions taken require the collaboration of at least two of the three pillars, and the RA needs to get involved almost every time. From this fact, from its general liberties granted by the Foundation Act, and from the tasks the Charter requests of the residents follows that the RA is the single most important part in the decision-making of the town – apart from the Divine will.
Due to the before-mentioned obstacles in place it is no wonder, though, that Auroville today, in its actual organization, could not be much farther removed from Mother’s ideal. With the legal establishment, under Indian law, of the township as the property of a foundation directly attached to India’s central government, a legalistic view of Auroville’s functioning progressively permeated throughout its residency and institutions. An expanding Residents Assembly, growing unable to meet regularly, without face-to-face discussion could not come to consensus any longer and switched to majority voting as a decision-making tool. Few residents received that as helpful and the vast majority withdrew from participation in the plebiscites.
A number of working groups which have been established, and get staffed, by the RA execute the work mandated to them by the RA, such as town planning (TDC), conflict resolution (AV Council), funds and assets management (FAMC), Entry etc.
The more the residents lost interest in direct decision-making, naturally, the working groups began to perceive themselves – and became perceived by many residents – as a quasi-government. As a result, the working groups began to make decisions which were not theirs to make, such as a network of surveillance cameras which has been installed without the residents’ agreement, with nobody signing responsible for it and no information provided on who is watching the footage or how long recordings gets stored. The groups became more bureaucratic and less transparent in their functioning over time, keeping secrets from the residents while asking them – under threat of consequences – for data. Despite numerous attempts at reform, they turned into a tool in the hands of a corrupt few, a nearly-closed circle of cronies and a caste of bureaucrats cycling through the revolving doors of the various groups.
Two examples for how rotten things had become
In late 2019, a would-be newcomer who got cheated royally by an Aurovilian and received due attention by neither the working groups nor the Foundation complained to India’s central government and its police authority. He provided evidence for hundreds of cases of corruption and other wrongdoings. Yet again, no thorough investigation ensued, neither by the government nor from within Auroville. A high-ranking officer of the Foundation accused of being in the know got absolved after what looked like a spurious inquiry.
When Corona hit in March 2020, government orders were passed “down” without any consideration of an Aurovilian way to handle such a crisis. All the numerous health practices adopted from around the world – Ayurvedic, Naturopathic, Chinese, Tibetan, Homeopathic etc – were forgotten overnight and the residents were told by the self-appointed Corona Committee that, while everyone was entitled to have their own opinions, people should keep those to themselves and simply follow the fear-based official prescription.
Far removed from the Mother’s teachings, unaware of our role in the Auroville project, and caught in a severe disequilibrium of power, we, the residents, were easy prey for the government coup that unfolded from December 2nd, 2021 on. Some say – especially those siding with the hostile forces – that we deserved it; that we should simply surrender and let Mother have her will. I disagree. Yes, by disregarding Natural Law as a collective we sort of invited further abuse. But it is not the Mother’s wrath that came upon us; she has never been aggressive. And neither us nor anybody else deserves the violation of their Natural Rights. Under the guise of “manifesting the Mother’s dream for Auroville”, “sweeping out the resisting forces” and “putting an end to corruption” a wrecking crew consisting of one handful of officers and a select few rogue Aurovilians began the dismantling of our system of self-governance.
The Takeover. Tactics from the textbook
On December 2nd, 2022 Auroville’s Youth Centre and adjacent forest plots receive a note from the Town Development Council (TDC) that, within a week, trees and buildings would be cleared along the designated Crown Road, a feature of the Galaxy footprint in the so-called Masterplan. On the following day Youth Centre asks for a stay, pointing out that recent visioning meetings had come up with creative solutions that would result in less damage to forest and buildings.
Nevertheless, bulldozers arrived already on the very next morning. Without work order they start felling trees. Within the hour, hundreds of Aurovilians peacefully block the destruction. The Foundation Office (FO) calls the police. They gather information and leave again – only to return at 1am, after consultations with the FO.
Disproportionate application of force
While the bulldozers proceed with the destruction the police block access to the site, arrest resident teenagers and assault some approaching protesters.
Calling the police against peaceful protesters was in clear violation of Mother’s guidelines for Auroville as town planning is an internal matter which should be decided and handled solely by the residents. The unprovoked use of violence, again, was in square violation of Auroville’s guidelines, as well as unambiguously immoral under Natural Law.
Bribery and ultimatum
After staunch protest notes from a community gathering and Auroville’s international support network, AVI, to the Foundation, the Secretary of the Foundation offers money and relocation support to the caretakers of the concerned plots – provided the protests stopped. The response had to be given within twelve hours. The caretakers declined the money but agreed to collaborate if they could dismantle the buildings themselves.
TDC and Foundation office gave a reply that differed from previously offered agreements.
FO’s spokespersons announce a community meeting exactly at the same time and place the residents announced their own.
Canceled freedom of speech
FO then gave a gag order to Outreach Media, Auroville’s media relations service, and appointed two official spokespersons of their own.
Needless to say that the oppression of differing voices is a deeply immoral act. While the behaviour of the police might have been in their own responsibility the FO violated Natural Law with their gag order and so for the first time unambiguously showed their disregard for Auroville’s principles and the self-determination of its residents.
Divide and conquer
The Residents Assembly asked their Working Committee to organize an emergency decision-making event. Four of the seven WC members, siding with the Foundation, refused the request. In the long run, this results in the duplication of working groups and a division among the residents. A direct attempt at dividing Aurovilians of local and non-local origin is made by the Secretary’s addressing the Tamil residents only in a public speech.
Employment of extra-legal external forces
Meanwhile the bulldozers return to the Youth Centre along with about one hundred hired unknown goons who aggress and harm protesters, women and children among them. More trees and buildings than planned are getting taken down. In the afternoon, the crew moved on to a different plot where events repeated. To add insult to the harm done, the Secretary later thanks the goons publicly during Auroville’s birthday celebration.
Ignoring court orders, laws, decisions and petitions
The National Green Tribunal of India issues a stay order. The work, especially the felling of trees, must be stopped. The destructive works go on nonetheless, up until this day. For justification the TDC refers to older working group decisions made in breach of the Foundation Act.
The Foundation continues to violate the Foundation Act on many instances and across its content; it attempted the restriction of the residents’ freedom of speech and assembly, the right to self-governance, the Residents Assembly’s participation in all matters of administration and self-organization, the constitutive processes of the working groups and so on. The hijacking of Auroville’s institutions usually happens by an order of the Secretary or one of her allies, to hand over keys, accounts, passwords, and equipment; it includes the phrase “issued with the approval of the Competent Authorities” but neither names those authorities nor mentions any legal rules it might rest upon.
The FO and the groups it has taken over completely ignore every request by the residents, to meet and find a way forward together. Communication flows only one way, from the FO to the residents in the form of orders, and from the FO to the media in the form of propaganda which is demonizing the residents. Residents ought to answer to a barrage of demands for data, but critical feedback attracts negative sanctions.
Petitions from supporters of the residents, such as the International Advisory Council (one of the three pillars of Auroville’s self-governance), the Auroville International supporters network, or the more than 50,000 signatories of a petition at change.org consistently get ignored as well.
In an unusual landslide decision of 89% in favour, the Residents Assembly determines that all work must stop until the policies and regulations regarding the infrastructure development of the town have been reviewed. Although the RA’s call is binding the FO doesn’t care; instead, it started the direct Takeover of working groups and other institutions of the RA from the following week on, in early February. All of the relevant orders are violating the Foundation Act, established procedures, Auroville’s guidelines, ethical principles such as the right to self-determination, or general goodwill, and they disrupt the functioning of the town’s self-governance.
The hijacking of Auroville’s institutions
February 8th, 2022 – Outreach Media which had been subjected to a gag order already two months ago, became the first victim in a long series of hijacked institutions and facilities. An order directed the handover of assets. The place was then physically sealed.
March 15th, 2022 – Auroville’s construction firms are sidelined by a contract between the Foundation and an external business “for the execution of Projects related to Making of Auroville City”. Our Water Service gets sidelined by the same business which is now taking over the sludge processing.
April 27th, 2022 – The four members of the Working Committee which sided with the Foundation illegally “dismiss” their three colleagues who stand by the Residents Assembly (the RA decides who can be a member in the WC).
May 7th & 9th, 2022 – Foundation and the Governing Board order the RA to stop all decision-making processes for the time being, until the Register of Residents is updated. The reasoning is legal nonsense (see below, “General intimidation”), the order as such is illegal because it lacks a basis, and it is immoral because it infringes on the right of the residents, to meet and to decide on their actions.
May 10th, 2022 – The RA decided in another landslide vote, with 92% agreement, that the four WC members siding with the Foundation are dismissed. Nevertheless, on May 12th, the four occupy the WC’s meeting room and appoint three more members. So there are effectively two groups calling themselves Working Committee now. The WC of the Residents is able to occupy the room a few days later, but Foundation calls the police on the 18th; they shut down the whole Townhall building. Complaints are filed against the residents’ WC members, for “illeagally taking over the WC office” – sheer mockery!
May 17th, 2022 – The Foundation, claiming “anti-government activities”, demands administrative access to Auroville’s intranet facilities; they claim “anti-government activities.” They provide no further details, nor does anybody specific get accused until now. An administrator hands over the passwords under duress.
May 20th, 2022 – Using the extorted passwords, Foundation takes over the intranet of Auroville, Auronet, and SYSOP, the service in charge of the domain name of Auroville and related email addresses of the working groups, services, units and all Aurovilians and of Auroville web services. These are later misused to restrict or deny active RA supporters access to or free use of the bulletin board, to hijack working groups’ email communications, to unveil details of such communications, and to block emails coming in from, or going out to, RA supporters’ accounts. The names of the new admins and sysops have never been published.
May 27th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks the Funds and Assets Committee of the Residents Assembly (FAMC) by “releasing” the RA-selected members and replacing them with personnel of the Foundation’s choice, one of them even a non-Aurovilian. Needless to say that this was illegal, unlawful, and immoral, all in one. The members of the FAMC of the RA refuse to step down, though, so it became the second working group in duplicate.
June 1st, 2022 – Using the commandeered intranet facilities Foundation hijacks Auroville’s mass bulletin service by locking out the admin with no previous announcement. This means that the lawful working groups can no longer inform the community through that channel. The RA’s institutions replace the lost resources with external services and addresses; Foundation warns that the outsourcing of information could have negative legal repercussions.
June 22th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks Auroville’s archives by another order and replaces part of the personnel.
June 24th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks ACUR, the management of the Townhall, by yet another order.
June 28th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks the Land Board by one more order; FO dismisses two of LB’s members and replaces them, partly by non-Aurovilians.
July 1st, 2022 – Following the takeover of ACUR, several tenants, among them working groups such as Human Resources, Auroville Council or Land Board receive short-notice terminations; they have to vacate the premises within 24 hours. No replacements or support with finding new places are offered to them. Council decides to defy the order and squats its own meeting room.
July 15th, 2022 – The Sri Aurobindo Centres in India, Auroville and the Ashrams in Pondicherry and New Delhi, were informed that the Secretary of the Foundation would now be the funding coordinator for government support to Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birthday celebrations, and the grant payments would be routed through her office. Moreover, the funding would not come in the form of a simple grant but a more complex financial arrangement involving bond schemes.
July 29st, 2022 – After the actual takeover of the Finance and Assets Management (FAMC) on May 27th,, and the rerouting of the celebration funds by the Delhi government, a cold takeover of the Budget Coordination Committee (BCC) takes place. Another office order from the Foundation demands “to immediately stop all BCC disbursement of funds to all projects except maintenance [i.e. basic income] with immediate effect.”
Personal intimidation through abuse of office power
Peaceful protesters of foreign origin witnessing the destruction of Youth Centre have been denounced as “violent” persons partaking in “political” activities to the visa registration authorities (FRRO); they receive visits from FRRO officers.
Residents and workinggroup members who inquire a group of Foundation-instructed road workers breaching the National-Green-Tribunal stay-order get threatened with criminal charges, for “obstructing government works”.
The Secretary sends out letters to foreigner residents that their visas will only get extended after they signed a demand that, among other things, they “abide by the Masterplan of Auroville based on the Galaxy Plan conceived by the Mother”. (60% of Aurovilians are of non-Indian origin.)
A short time later, all residents are called to update the Foundation’s “Register of Residents” that supposedly had been neglected since 2005. At closer inspection, the Foundation has live access to the so-called Master List which is kept up-to-date on a daily basis. The registration form demands, mandatorily, an AADHAAR card number; that card is a unified biometric ID which, for the obvious problems it causes towards personal privacy, has repeatedly been ruled by India’s supreme court as voluntary-use only. Another issue with the Foundation’s registration form is an attached three-pages questionaire; the combination is not permissible. Foundation warns of severe consequences later, though, to people who do not fill the form. Nevertheless, only about half of the residents follows the request, many of them due to fear of consequences only.
Meanwhile, more than half of current visa applicants, through no fault of their own, experience difficulties; the processing of their applications gets delayed significantly, the period of visa validity gets reduced drastically, or they receive no visas at all. Such an amount of arbitrary trouble only occured in the 1970s, during the conflict with the Sri Aurobindo Society.
Judge for yourself
One could extend the list of atrocities perpetrated by the Foundation Office and their commandeered working groups by a number of further events but that wouldn’t add significantly to the picture. (Get the full & up-to-date timeline of events from the website Stand For Auroville Unity, which I used for my article.) The ill will and contempt shown towards Auroville’s residents is so obvious and the contrast to Auroville’s principles is so stark that, in order to judge sincerity and moral correctness of the Foundation Office, it is not necessary to consider the points each side is bringing forward; the methods in and by themselves are abominable and delegitimize any claim to virtue that could perhaps be made. The Takeover collaborateurs compound their foul play with gleeful remarks against those they have violated, and by glorifying their ‘leader’ (Madam Secretary, of course) with quotes from Machiavelli’s cynical book “The Prince”.
In terms of democratic values the balance sheet looks nasty as well: those who constantly violate the law while claiming to defend it apparently couldn’t care less about ethical consideration or morally correct acting. It seems that they think that the ends justify the means – in unambiguous indication of their spiritual poverty.
The individual strikes dealt in the coup were obviously illegal. But whether they were or weren’t is irrelevant to Natural Law. Legality does not establish morality, nor does illegality equal immorality. I cannot help but notice, though, that a trail of lies, theft, violence and suffering closely accompanies the steps undertaken by the Secretary since her taking office in mid-2021. I find that telling, from the perspective both of Aurobindan spirituality and your garden-variety interpretation of Natural Law. How shallow her understanding of Auroville’s principles actually must be would normally not concern anyone else but herself. Since she imposes her view on everyone else, by enforcing quick “development”, her ignorance becomes an issue.
In their blatant immorality the Takeover crew are akin to the petty tyrants currently running the countries of the Western bloc. As we see
the same methods applied as during the Plandemic – hijacking of institutions, misinformation, fear mongering, doling out unprovoked violence, causing division, demonizing dissidents, mirroring and projecting one’s own misdeeds on opponents,
and as the same denial of communication is happening like in other countries such as currently against farmers in the Netherlands,
and as the means and measures taken by the aggressors actually are in direct violation of their own proclaimed principles and harm their own purported goals,
and as the heat is coming from persons who are answerable directly to the central government,
it is not too far-fetched to assume that the Takeover of Auroville, rather than serving the development of the town along Mother’s guidelines, is part of the globalist predator’s agenda: the takeover of national states, land ownership, and natural resources around the world. Whole populations lose their subsistence, get driven off the land, fall into dependency from large corporations, and their communities dissolve. The case of Auroville may serve as a stark warning to all those who still think that governments have the best of their citizens in mind and that they were willing and able to work for a better world. Their interests are fundamentally different from those of their “constituency”, and so they lie to the people, always, everywhere. To protect the lie, to enforce their orders, and to keep themselves in power they use structural and physical violence and the threat thereof. It doesn’t matter whether it’s monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, socialism, theocracy, fascism, democracy, or what-have-you – all governments act immorally by default, all government is tyranny, no matter how comfortable it might feel to the average person.
Video: Mark Passio on government, authority, freedom, and determinedness
And this is why the idea that the human condition had improved over the millennia is an illusion; it only become smarter, and so much so as to make us beg them for more of the stick and less of the carrot. Today, we are standing at the edge of a cliff. One step into the wrong direction will bring unprecedented suffering on a global scale.
It is government which orchestrates the drive towards Hell, but make no mistake, it was the majority of the population that allowed for it to happen: the corruption of some, and the ignorance, the laziness and the lack of courage of almost everyone else. It was order-following that brought us here. Auroville has been founded to experiment with positive ways, based on the capacity of free individuals to discern truth from untruth, and to voluntarily collaborate for the realization of the fact that all men are basically one. To establish any kind of governance that forces its rule on the residents by external means can only result in total failure of the township’s objectives. To do so under the guise of fostering those objectives is duplicitious, if not malicious, because it leeches people’s creative energy for an evil goal while destroying their confidence in the Good.
And, as far as the residents are concerned, to help the putschists, actively or by surrendering to their orders, is equally despicable. It’s not what you are here for, dear Aurovilians!
The name Auroville deserves for as long as it rests in the claws of government and its herd of cowards is Asuraville, the city at the service of Evil, because it has become the anti-thesis of what it ought to embody.
New Age fallacies
And so it is of high importance that Aurovilians and the world’s population alike understand the significance of events like the Takeover, no matter under which guise the strikes take place: in response to a “financial crisis”, a “pandemic”, an “invasion”, or to facilitate the “development” of towns into “smart cities”. The governments’ “measures” happen always against our personal and collective interest as they do not keep harm from us (which is a lie), they inflict harm (which is violence). We have every right to resist.
But due to a misguided understanding of scriptures, and supported by erroneous New-Age “wisdom”, many believe that the utmost we may do about events such as Auroville’s Takeover is to send protest notes. From their view, to get hit by violent crime invites the question what you have done to attract it; to point out wrongdoing is called “projecting”, and to distance oneself from the perpetrators is perceived as a form of divisiveness. To involve courts will be seen as illegitimate aggression. When you occupy your place despite orders not to, you are coming dangerously close to getting chastised as a violator. Let’s put things straight:
1) A receiver of violence has usually not called for it, and he certainly doesn’t deserve it. To say otherwise is to tell a rape victim she “had it coming.” Inflicting harm on somebody else – taking their property, freedom, health, mate, life, self-determination, or ability to judge – without their consent is always immoral. To speak the truth about what happened is a Right, and it is usually the perpetrators who project their guilt by shaming the victim. There is a clear distinction between the person who is doing harm and the person that is done harm to; to treat them as “equally involved in conflict” feels fundamentally unjust – because it is. Trust that feeling. Well knowing that they have done wrong to another the perpetrators usually avoid clarifying talks at all cost; called out they react verbally aggressive or even physically offensive. In such circumstances, when all other peaceful attempts for rectifying the wrong have failed, forcefully incapacitating them or appealing to a court or a jury for support can help with ending an oppressive situation. Courts generally are advised against both under Natural Law and in Auroville, but if the antagonist is a legal entity rather than a living person I would certainly keep that option. And the forceful response to an immediate threat or to an attack is, of course, not to be equated with violence; it is legitimate self-defense. The application of force might be wise in some cases, rather not advisable in most others, because the damage inflicted invites retaliation and has unwanted implications for years, sometimes centuries to come. Self-defense is definitely legitimate under Natural Law. Listen to your consciousness, and consider non-combative conflict resolution first.
2) Living in abidance by Natural law opens up potentials for a peaceful life. And yet, unless you don’t care about your family, your neighbour, your community, your habitat, or your guiding principles – not to talk about serving Truth – you will without a doubt fight to secure their well-being when they come under attack. Pacifism is a completely different animal; it claims that there is nothing worth fighting for and that you should leave your hands in the pockets while all that has been built up is getting damaged, stolen, or destroyed, and your loved ones are getting driven out, enslaved, raped, tortured, or murdered.
3) And for whom exactly did pacifism ever work? Has it worked for the Caribbean tribes who welcomed Columbus with a feast before they got enslaved? Has it worked for New England’s Indians when they helped the first colonists survive before those turned on them? What about Appeasement politics in the 1930s – it stopped the War? Has petitioning ended Pol Pot’s genocide against the Kampuchean “intellectuals”? Pacifism’s effectiveness, when it comes to preventing the worst, horribly fails to meet expectations.
Tyrannical regimes often times don’t start with genocide, but rather with simple immoral or illegal acts guised in rationalistic, moralistic or legalistic shrouds. A wrong sense of staying peaceful and civilized in the face of injustice only helps the perpetrators drive their inhumane agenda to its bitter ending. To prevent the worst one has to note the similarities early-on.
Considering the havoc wreaked by the plandemic measures one cannot seriously sustain doubts that most of the world’s governments would absolutely sacrifice millions of their citizens in pursuit of accumulating and perpetuating power. So I have to ask the Aurovilians who would still stay silent about the wrongness of the Takeover, Do you really think that they, the Takers, will stop the dismantling of Auroville’s self-governance before you get affected? Do you think they would not expel one thousand or more residents, and use the rest of us as walk-ons pretending to be happy inhabitants of a spiritual tourist trap? Do you think they will stop before something really terrible happens that will remain as a dirty stain on Auroville’s Karma for centuries to come?
I have to ask those who would collaborate, even, with the Takers whether you actually think that any good can come from the way you treat others? Which kind of Auroville could possibly emerge from coerced collaboration when the very first point of the charter emphasized willing servitude?
Yes, Karma will restore balance eventually, by extinguishing immoral societies – it’s called the Sodom & Gomorrah solution – but for you to collaborate, or to just stand by, means you are becoming a willing servitor of the Asuric forces. Deny it all you want; Karmic Law won’t consider excuses, only sincere confessions and redemption.
As pointed out already, Auroville’s state of affairs has parallels in the global context, which hardly surprises anyone who lived their lives somewhen during the last 3000 years and paid attention. We’ll explore this thread of understanding in the upcoming fourth article of the Auroville & Natural Law series, Truth or the Abyss.
“No system indeed by its own force can bring about the change that humanity really needs; for that can only come by its growth into the firmly realised possibilities of its own higher nature, and this growth depends on an inner and not an outer change. But outer changes may at least prepare favourable conditions for that more real amelioration, — or on the contrary they may lead to such conditions that the sword of Kalki can alone purify the earth from the burden of an obstinately Asuric humanity. The choice lies with the race itself; for as it sows, so shall it reap the fruit of its Karma.” – Sri Aurobindo: War and Self-Determination
[title image: The Princess and the Goblin (1920), Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)]
Speaking of Natural Law I mean a principle of cause and effect in human social behavior. That principle is intrinsic to the human condition, proceeding from the freely born individual endowed with reason and conscience. Based on correct observation of that-which-is (Truth), when the individual undertakes an ethically stringent inquiry it results in a morally correct evaluation of what he or she ought to do; given that the process has not been spoiled by egoic motions or external influences the outcome of Morality is Right Action. Abidance by or ignorance of Natural Law determines the success or failure of human communities. Societies which value truthfulness tend to increase justice, freedom, peace, and happiness; societies driven by the selfishness of rulers and/or the general population tend towards misery. The Law is valid, unchangeably, everywhere and at all times and its outcomes are inevitable.
The beauty of Natural Law is that its functioning can be explained and understood in wholly mechanistic terms even though much of that functioning happens within the intangible ethical deliberations of the human mind. Yet mechanistic materialism cannot explain the origin of Natural Law, just as it cannot explain life or consciousness. The idea that the world – nature – merely consists of matter and forces, born from randomness, indifferent or even hostile to life makes no sense at all. On closer inspection there seems to exist an ordering principle at the beginning of the Universe, a principle that is life-fostering, and people have called that principle, among other things, “Spirit”, “Universal Consciousness”, “the One Radical Cause”, “Creator”, or “God”.
So Natural Law, along with the laws of physical nature, can be understood as a God-given set of rules the observance of which does a great deal to anchor one’s life in beneficial conditions.
In the above-mentioned article I gave the international township of Auroville as a point-in-case for how collective suffering and disorder result from ignoring that Law, as the original ideas of Mirra Alfassa, its founding mother, have been turned upside down by a large number of the residents themselves. Among those count not only hardcore-materialists, but those who interpret her teachings literally, rigidly, or even religiously.
To introduce Auroville’s principles to readers who have heard none or little about this settlement so far, and to help shining a light on its philosophy (for lack of a better word) from the perspective of Natural Law I decided to write a brief summary. This will also serve to better understand the events unfolding since December 2021 around the hostile takeover of Auroville by external forces. I will describe them in the third article. When regarded in their global context their significance to the future of humanity as a whole ought to become visible, as to be described in a fourth article.
Before we start examining Auroville’s founding history and its philosophical framework, the reader should note that the author was interested in questions like, freedom of the individual, just societies, consciousness, relation of person to collective, human dignity, the unity of thoughts, words and actions, the nature of truth and reality, or the future of mankind for decades before joining that township. An understanding of and agreement with its fundamental principles can be taken as given. As a long-term resident my writings about Auroville are based on personal observation and living experience. I have access to eyewitness reports, internal communications, and all of the relevant spiritual writings. Nevertheless, although it should be self-evident that each writer or speaker can only talk from their own perspective and understanding, I am giving the explicit caveat that I am not representing the “official” Auroville, neither the overreaching powers-that-should-not-be nor, to my great pity, am I representative of a major portion of its residents. That said, it needs to be noted that a tangible minority is doing their level best to live from a deep understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s teachings. It will be upon these good people to stem the rising tide of Asuric (i.e. Satanic) forces.
[All following quotes by Mirra Alfassa, unless labeled otherwise.]
“There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment. In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. In this place, titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise; the bodily needs of each one would be equally provided for, and intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority would be expressed in the general organisation not by an increase in the pleasures and powers of life but by increased duties and responsibilities. Beauty in all its artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, would be equally accessible to all; the ability to share in the joy it brings would be limited only by the capacities of each one and not by social or financial position. For in this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action. In short, it would be a place where human relationships, which are normally based almost exclusively on competition and strife, would be replaced by relationships of emulation in doing well, of collaboration and real brotherhood …” (1954)
The idea of Auroville has a history reaching back into the 1920s. In no text has that idea been expressed more to the point or more emphatically than 1954 in “A Dream”. We will have to inspect its central tenets later because it has become one of the core documents of the actual international township of Auroville which has been founded only on February 28th of 1968 on a barren plateau in the middle of South-Indian nowhere. Dust storms and a mercilessly burning Sun characterized the place during the dry season, torrential downpours which quickly eroded the little soil left after colonial forest exploitation shaped the picture during the Monsoon rains. The first settlers quickly understood that if they wanted to be able to stay on the land they had to make the water stay as well. For without the water there would be no way to provide food for everyone, and it would also be much too hot for human tastes. So they built check dams in the erosion canyons, dug water catchment ponds, and contoured the land in such a way as to enable rainwater to percolate into the aquifers. They also had to fence the properties that city founder Mirra Alfassa, whom they called and still call The Mother, bought from Ashram resources; else roaming cattle from the surrounding Tamil villages would have eaten into extinction every one of the millions of saplings which grew into today’s lush forests. There hasn’t been much of solid architecture around for a long, long time, and, God knows, any plastered roads whatsoever. In their dreams, though, the first settlers imagined the future city of 50,000 as designed by Mother’s architect, Roger Anger: a circular town in the shape of a galaxy, with huge kilometers-long structures, up to sixty meters high, spiraling out from the Matrimandir, the spiritual center, to the periphery, where a greenbelt consisting of forests, parks and farms would surround the actual settlement. Roger Anger who wanted to become a better LeCorbusier designed his Auroville draft with no respect to the actual ground realities such as pre-existing settlements, topography or local culture. In Mother’s mind the plan had to reflect an ideal shape that, as with all her teachings, would have to be adapted to new realizations, as those unfolded over time. And so the constitutional four-point Charter which she gave the town on its inception does not mention the physical features of the place at all.
Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.
Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.
While “A Dream”, appealing to the hopes and aspirations of the world’s discontent, works as a powerful invitation to “all those who thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life” the Auroville Charter serves as an outline of what its residents are out to accomplish. From the standpoint of a materialistic worldview the ordinary person may feel that the goals presented here sound quite lofty and, altogether, seem rather elusive. Those people usually overlook the precision with which the Mother chose her words; most of the times they are also unconscious either to the existence of a higher Truth or to the ways the invisible, immaterial, unmeasurable aspects of the Universe work. Despite superficial similarites to hippiesque folklore we are definitely not discussing untenable fluffy New-Age assertions here, nor are we talking religion. Integral Yoga, as the Indian sage Sri Aurobindo called his philosophy, is a science in that it can be verified through immersing oneself in the experiment he describes.
Let’s pick the Charter’s four points apart, so you can get a better impression of Auroville’s goals. The legal reality of the world since more than one hundred years looks something like the political maps they show you on the TV news: nowhere to run. Earth’s surface has been cut up into separate plots surrounded by fences and guarded by armies. All places are taken, some are even claimed by more than one nation, and all the people therein – every single one of them – is ruled over by a government of some kind. But when your free ethical thinking is impaired by external rules it has moral implications, as discussed above. Life ‘governed’ by Natural Law thrives best in – and would tend towards – anarchic conditions. This is why the “Dream” begins with the words “There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth.” Auroville itself does not claim nationhood either. It would just become the place where the “supreme Truth” – Universal / Ultimate / Perfect / Divine Consciousness, or God, for short – manifests. And so the first point of the Charter says that it belongs to nobody you could point at; which doesn’t mean you give free pass to anyone who would misuse the unregulated setting for their selfish pursuits. In Auroville,
The external freedom from man-made restrictions, such as money, property, laws, regulations, tradition, ideologies, religion, or moral codes supports the strive for internal freedom, to listen to intuition, conscience, and to the ‘supreme Truth’. External liberty also provides the space for manifesting – translating knowledge into lived practice – what these inner voices can teach you in an “unending education” from birth to death. Far from submitting yourself into bondage by your willingness to be a “servitor of the divine consciousness” the beneficial effects of your commitment free you up ever further. Our collective willingness provides the drive by which Natural Law improves the external living conditions towards freedom, justice, peace, and prosperity.
If you ever looked into the Buddha’s teachings and got the gist of it you’ll already know that our desires as well as our aversions are the breeding-ground of human suffering; our ignorance of that fact perpetuates suffering for ever and ever. This is why Auroville would be the place “where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires”, in order “to conquer the causes of [man’s] sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities”.
Aurovilians ought not reject the past in totality; to be an Aurovilian does not mean you have become a featureless human cleared of all tradition, religion, moral codes etc., but that you are choosing consciously, ethically from their teachings, to make use of all which resonates with Truth.
Given you are going through a proper process of observation (listening, acquiring knowledge “from without and from within”) and evaluation (ethical thinking, understanding & moral conclusion) your resulting actions are bound to serve “a higher and truer life.”
Unrestrained by any arbitrary limitations your life resembles no longer the machine-like existence of the ordinary world, which is running on programmes and rules, but a living ever-changing organic realization of the Ultimate Truth (actual reality, if you think in scientific terms, only that it’s bigger than the textbooks have it), or God’s will (if you prefer spiritual terms). Both perspectives are necessary for a full understanding of what we undertake here. That’s why the underlying philosophy is called “Integral Yoga”. The Charter, between the lines, points out that Auroville is not an architectural site in the first place, but a congregation for the integration of spirit, mind, and matter. That integration takes place in people and through people, in all their diversity.
Though people of goodwill from all walks of life and from all over the world are invited to join, Auroville is not intended to represent an absurd United-Nations-like compilation of streamlined yet competing individuals but to grow a “unity in diversity” which embraces and takes advantage of the infinite forms of human expressions and where “each one is indispensable to the whole.”
Infinitely more could be said about the meaning of the Charter; different aspects could be highlighted, deeper implications could be pointed out. For the purpose of a quick introduction in the light of Natural Law it should suffice, though. Let’s move on to a bunch of other cornerstones of living in Auroville.
Preconditions for living in Auroville
The fundamental preconditions for living in Auroville have been named already. In various phrasings the Mother repeated them over and over again: To “be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness,” says the Charter. “To be of goodwill,” says another quote, and “tocollaborate for the material realisation of that [human] unity,” proclaims yet another. Some of that stuff you read so far sounds pretty SciFi, doesn’t it? Unaccomplishably Utopian, hopelessly woo-woo, if you had asked me in my teens. Back then I believed that human nature was selfish, violent and shortsighted. I have learned since that I could not have been more mistaken. It is culture rather than nature that makes us selfish, violent and shortsighted. But as I was utterly fed up with the conditions I was living under (and within) I was looking for ways forward, out of the all-encompassing swamp of misery. That search set me on a meandering path eventually leading to Auroville.
A great deal of people I have talked to about this special town immediately responded that they found my leaving-behind of Western culture, my abandonment of social insurance memberships, permanently-surveilled orderliness and the overall predictability of everyday life “very courageous” when it was anything but courageous. I was totally fed up with it; I found them increasingly inacceptable and couldn’t possibly go on. The above-mentioned people also said they couldn’t take such a step. Their fascinated enchantment all too clearly showed, though, that something in them understood and would because it yearned for liberation. It was not me but them who needed courage, for courage is the will to act despite the fear of loss that tries to hold you back. A refreshingly resolute quote from the New Testament sums up the sentiment that someone with a sincere thirst for another way of being might share:
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, KJB)
It reverberates in the Mother’s word, “For those who are satisfied with the world as it is, Auroville obviously has no reason to exist.”The opposite applies as well, she said: “Those who are dissatisfied [with Auroville] ought to return to the world where they can do what they want,” becaue “it is not for comfort and satisfaction of desires that one comes to Auroville; it is for the growth of consciousness and consecration to the Truth that has to be realised.” And so the question of joining, or not, boils down to,
When – but ONLY when – you are willing to lose your guarded existence of individualist consumer choices which you pay for by selling out your conscience and your lifetime you may win something immeasurably more fulfillling. That something could await you in Auroville, or among any other group of people living by Natural Law, in one colourig or another.
“Is Auroville the only solution to the misery of mankind and the disorders of society?”, someone asked the Mother. She replied,
“Not the only solution. It is a centre of transformation, a small nucleus of men who are transforming themselves and setting an example to the world. This is what Auroville hopes to be. As long as egoism and bad will exist in the world, a general transformation is impossible.”
With all that talk about Yoga and Spirit and the Divine, “You must be meditating a lot. What’s your practice?”, I get asked sometimes. Makes me chuckle, inwardly. I’m not exactly the meditation kind, you know; none of the diverse rituals called meditation really work so well on me. Perhaps there’s an attitude issue. I contemplate or inquire quite frequently though. Adyashanti, one of my spiritual teachers, In his booklet “The Way of Liberation”, names these three methods as “Core Practices” for “bringing forth and realizing timeless Truth.”“Truth is quite literally the only thing that does exist,” he says, and calls spiritual practice “applied folly” the sincere persistent exercise of which, almost despite our efforts, guides us towards the realization of Truth. Depending on the spiritual tradition you regard – Indic religions or a-religious Spirituality – meditation is a form of Yoga, or Yoga is a form of meditation.
On being confused, resort to Sri Aurobindo who cut the Gordian knot as follows:
whereas Yoga is the search for Union with God, or Supreme Truth, or Universal Consciousness, or the Divine, or any of the other terms which have been used for the Ultimate. The word ‘life’ can be interpreted in two ways, both of them correctly so: Everything we do in the process of living is a search for Union with God, and all living beings are an expression of the aspiration for Union with God. Life is Yoga, Yoga is life.
“Our research will not be a search effected by mystic means. It is in life itself that we wish to find the Divine. And it is through this discovery that life can really be transformed,” proclaimed the Mother. Auroville has been founded for living the Yoga in the Aurobindian sense. And that means you better invest some Proper Thought, True Care, and Right Action, like you’re serious about it, that Union thing. Because it is not about you or me or them, separately; it’s about all of Auroville, and, beyond that, about all of humanity. One’s work is worth zilch if it is not dedicated to something beyond oneself, and one’s freedom is slavery to the petty ego so long as it is not concerned with the freedom of everyone. If we are good at it we can make dramatic progress early on; if not, the Universe will find other species to help achieve what it wants.
For “Humanity is not the last rung of the terrestrial creation. Evolution continues and man will be surpassed. It is for each individual to know whether he wants to participate in the advent of this new species.”
Eugenics? Transhumanism? I admit the thought is suggestive. It is one of the examples to illustrate the presence of the dark twin that every spiritual realization possesses. The satanic brother pretends to be the true good, but he twists truth into a lie, good into evil and diversity into arbitrariness. Man, by virtue of the evolution of his consciousness, can voluntarily transform himself into a physically changed being more amenable to the highest truth, and this evolution can be accelerated by spiritual practices, says Aurobindo. We are equally free to let it be. The technocratic sorcerer’s apprentices of our time, on the other hand, by means of pharmaceuticals, genetic manipulation or by merging with machines, try to impose on humanity a Babylonian megalomania that has no place in Aurobindo’s teaching.
The “superman” is a historically loaded topic, a difficult territory, especially in our time, in which humans, who have been stripped of all meaning and transcendence, try to become an omnipotent immortal homo deus. One should certainly take a very close look at who is talking about it, in what way and with what aim, and also consider Karl Kraus’ remark that the Übermensch is a premature ideal that presupposes the human being. For a huge number of our brothers and sisters are stuck in survival mode, which leaves hardly any space for expressing the faculties of our species.
To distinguish the light from the dark twin requires a sharpened eye, but one can easily acquire it with a little practice. Many of the concepts of the Auroville utopia, which at first seem confusing or impossible to achieve, only make sense once you have it. I know it doesn’t help much to say that all that seems impossible becomes self-evident after one begins to trust Aurobindo’s teachings enough to let oneself fall into his experiment. And yet, it is like that sign pointing the way to the restaurant: The hunger for truth is not satisfied by Aurobindo’s books, but in the place to which those books point the way. We will come to this in the next article.
Skeptical stares, yes, I understand. We have seen too many pied pipers to believe in anything good anymore. The cynicism and nihilism of some and the defeatism and depression of others can be understood all too well. And yet we should not be discouraged, but draw the right conclusions from the failures of our search. The good still exists. Thanks to the research of numerous men and women of all times and cultures, we know:
Ken Wilber challenges the doubters:
“if you want to know what these men and women are actually talking about, then you must take up the contemplative practice or injunction or paradigm, and perform the experiment yourself.”
And as in Auroville “each person is allowed full freedom,” to perform the experiment literally anything could happen. It therefore doesn’t make sense to spend much breath on foretelling in detail what it would be like to live in such a place.
“To seek Truth freely and to approach it freely along his own lines is a man’s right. But each one should know that his discovery is good for him alone and it is not to be imposed on others.”
Ideally, the township would have no government. As indicated in “A Dream”, “titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise;” nothing and no one has the right to impose themselves arbitrarily. Leadership would be understood as some sort of guidance, not as so-called authorities endowed with the right to rule.
“No rules or laws are being framed. Things will get formulated as the underlying Truth of the township emerges and takes shape progressively. We do not anticipate.”
Problems would be solved by consensus arrived-at rather than majority vote or even decree. Again, this requires deep listening to the Truth and the goodwill to reach beyond one’s own preferences. Provided there is goodwill, pathways that serve all members of the polity open up. Organization could happen spontaneously, even, as fluidly emerging – imagine that scene – like people going about their business in a densely populated place, collisionlessly passing each other on the way to their next stop without the need to follow rules or orders. When living by the guidance of higher levels of consciousness, starting with the basics of human interaction as described by the “Golden Rule”, a society organizing in the “Divine Anarchy” the Mother imagined becomes possible.
You guessed it: A society without government and laws has also no place for police and courts, for all of these are forms of imposition, of violence, of restrictions to freedom. You cannot possibly have them AND progress to a free, just, prosperous and peaceful society. People are not out to zap each other, as reports from any disaster area can tell you. Left on their own devices they spontaneously organize for mutual help. Even the actual Auroville of today, as impaired with fear, ignorance and greed as many of its residents are, may serve as an example for the tremendous improvement that comes with greater self-determination.
Work, money, property
They watch TV every night til they fall asleep on the sofa, play video games til they break the world high scores, or camp on the beach for months on end. They got the squarest eyes and the fattest asses you’ve ever seen, yes? – No.
Just like the maroding man-eating mobs from the movies are a myth, so is the ever-lazy bum. Where they exist they are a rebellous reaction to being hopelessly enmeshed in rigid social structures. Where there is no government, like in tribal groups, things essential both to survival and happiness are getting done – and have been since the emergence of our species. Today’s usage of the word ‘tribal’ gives a completely wrong impression of what natives’ life was and still is about. Despite derogatory stories told by conquistadores and missionaries peace, justice, freedom and wellbeing have been maintained to an immensely greater and more persistent degree among so-called “savages” than among the civilized. Neither driven by leaders nor incentivized by currency first nations are able to live in abundance – even today under the severe conditions they have been driven into – while enjoying all the leisure they like.
Now imagine a modern town where “work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole.” If you can’t, pay us a visit. I once read in a feature-length article in a major German newspaper that the reporter was impressed with the fact that Auroville’s residents, while generally quite relaxed, are constantly busy with their multiple projects, activities, or involvements: arts, community discussions, sports, healing, meditation, workshops, “day jobs”, gardening, voluntary service and whatnot, none of which they receive as labour in the sweat-of-your-brow sense of having to earn a living. All of them? Well, a number significant enough for this reporter’s impression to arise; those who understood that “the opposition between spirituality and material life … has no sense … as, in truth, life and the spirit are one and it is in and by the physical work that the highest Spirit must be manifested. It is not what you do but the spirit in which you do it that makes Karma Yoga [ie. the yoga of work].”
With that idea disappears another huge factor which holds societies back from developing towards real truth, justice, peace, freedom and wellbeing. “Money would no longer be the sovereign lord,” the ‘Dream’ proclaims, as we don’t need it to get our activities going among ourselves. One also quickly loses the sense of personal possessions; not only does the commune, by the power of everyone’s work contribution, provide for everyone’s basic needs; “The more we are consciously in contact with our inner being, the more are the exact means given to us.” Because it’s a real effect it has become absolutely commonplace knowledge among all spiritual seekers. Mechanistic materialists call it ‘synchronicity’; disenchanting, but fair enough.
So much for the dream of Auroville. To know Truth from illusion one must always consciously discern lived reality from the ideal, and one must distinguish between first-hand experience and mediated information. Too many visitors and, unfortunately, even some Aurovilians fail to do that. Keep that in mind while reading through this four-part series on Auroville & Natural Law.
One of my countless sins of omission until recently consisted of a maintained disinterest in the question of whether human existence is determined by Natural Laws in a similar way to the material universe. To be precise, I found that the problem of free will vs. determinacy of our expressions of life could not be conclusively solved, and thus it could not be determined which decisions are right or wrong, moral or immoral. I have certainly poached a little in these philosophical meadows, investigated questions such as “What is justice?” and made considerations about the freedom of the individual, most recently in the article “Living in Sin“. In the process, I have very often arrived at the same insights that other thinkers of diverse cultures have gained over the past two and a half thousand years, thanks to my own experiences as well as observations, research, and conclusions. This honors not so much myself as those very mystics and philosophers whose insights into the nature of being, after such a long time under such changed circumstances, continue to prove true today. It speaks further for a regularity, a Natural Law, which determines perpetually, everywhere, unchangeably and inevitably the success or failure of human communities. This law is called “Natural Law” in Western philosophy. The word nature derives from the Latin “natura” (birth); it refers to the derivation of our rights from the characteristics given to man qua birth by Nature or God. Therefore, Natural Law in its validity refers to human nature, the conditio humana.
My lifelong poking around had the disadvantage that it took a long time for conjectures to condense into certainties, but it had the great advantage that the rules of Natural Law could not be dismissed as just another set of arbitrary mental constructs. They can be subjected to tests with conventional tools for verification. The derivations performed by well-known Natural Law thinkers such as Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas Aquinas, Gautama Siddhartha, the philosophers of Enlightenment, Emerson, Thoreau, Steiner, or the American Founding Fathers reveal exciting facets. However, it would go completely beyond the scope of a single article if we wanted to start our discussion with Adam and Eve, so to speak, and examine all ramifications and variants. For our purposes – to restore human self-determination – there is no need for referring to the writings of philosophical authorities. Natural Law, as employed here in the article, is self-evident. It means a principle of cause and effect of human social behavior, intrinsic to the world, which radically proceeds from the freely born individual endowed with reason and conscience. It can not only be applied in everyday life, but is even indispensable for certain purposes. I partly use contemporary texts by thinkers rarely cited in this context to illustrate my points. Such texts exist in encouragingly high numbers.
How few of those who march through the streets protesting against Corona measures have understood that the answer to the slashing of the Constitution by the state should be more Natural Law instead of more democracy, I would rather not know. However, I can say with certainty that the following points have the highest relevance for the lives of all of us (in my opinion, even for the continued existence of that which essentially makes us human).
Hold on, it’s getting exciting.
In the nearly two hundred states of the Earth there are just as many different definitions of what is right and what is wrong and how violations of law are to be sanctioned. This is called the legal system. This multiplicity of different legal norms – think of such extreme examples as the Sharia or the U.S. Constitution – which, moreover, change in content and character over time, often tempts people to fall into moral relativism. Moral relativism is the view that what is right can be determined arbitrarily. Now, of course, there is no denying that both legal and moral ideas – which inform each other to a certain extent – in fact spring from just such arbitrariness. The rules by which we orient our behavior depend in the last instance on our conception of the human being and our place in the world, and this conception differs from culture to culture, from country to country, and from person to person. In this confusing jumble of often incompatible norms, two things have been lost: first, the distinction between law, morality and ethics, and second, the objective difference between right and wrong. The latter goes by the name of “Natural Law” in philosophy, but it has existed and continues to exist under diverse names in all cultures. The best known are probably “Thomism”, “Anthroposophy”, “Cause and effect”, “Spiritual law”, “Karma” and “The Golden Rule”.
What are law, morality and ethics?
(Positive) Law consists of formal rules established by authorities to guide the behavior of individuals and groups in a society with the help of state power. Different societies have different authorities that apply different standards, but what they all have in common is the expectation of unconditional obedience and the sanctioning of violations by state authority. Positive law – constitutions, laws, statutes, ordinances, and court judgments – are, as we shall see, in direct opposition to Natural Law, “a set of non-man-made, binding, and immutable conditions that govern the consequences of the actions of all beings capable of holistic intelligence.” (Mark Passio).
A simple statement that has been enshrined in all cultures since time immemorial and that we call the “Golden Rule.” The violation of a natural right harms the recipient of the violation; it entitles the recipient to self-defense. Violations produce long-term effects in the polity, manifesting themselves as forms of disorder, bondage, and collective suffering. But not only the violation, also the observance of Natural Law has consequences: The polity in the long run gains in cohesion, freedom, justice, and prosperity. The best-known term for this dynamic is “karma” – a concept that is unfortunately often completely misunderstood as a personal balance of sins.
Morality as currently understood by the man on the streets is often, but not necessarily, identical with obeying positive laws. Morality consists in the concrete rules of conduct that apply in a community, that is, about how one should live. If these rules are standardized, one speaks of a code of conduct. Depending on the culture and subculture of the group to which people belong, morality defines their socially acceptable behavior. A pacifist will condemn any use of force against persons, a soldier will see the matter quite differently.
In Natural Law, any action that does not cause harm is moral. Whoever causes harm to others, that is, violates their natural rights, acts immorally.
Always immoral and therefore wrong in Natural Law are lying, theft, destruction of property, burglary, coercion, rape, assault, slavery, imprisonment and murder – acts that deprive their recipient of a right.
Acts of self-defense, on the other hand, are rightful and never constitute violence.
Ethics and morality are often used interchangeably. Moreover, a confusing variety of definitions is in use. Commonly, however, ethics is understood to be a set of mutable values and principles that govern the actions of individuals. In philosophy, ethics is thinking about morality; ethics provides the rationale for morality.
Thus, whoever does not consciously think about morally right behavior acts unconsciously and unethically. A person who does not think ethically cannot act morally; he or she does not exercise his or her rights and is very likely to violate those of their fellow human beings. In their ignorance they may act immorally and unjustly.
What is remarkable about Natural Law is that ethical thinking and moral action always relate harmoniously to each other, because they can be traced back to the same source: the objective knowledge of right and wrong. This knowledge is based on the observation of causes and effects that has guided our species since its existence. Following Natural Law – abiding by the unwritten Laws of Nature – Humans have lived in small egalitarian groups for hundreds of millennia, as appropriate to our species as birds use to live in flocks. Only with the emergence of civilizations – hierarchically organized societies with a law-making authority at the top which cultivate order-following – do law, morality and ethics begin to diverge. The Swiss philosopher Chnopfloch aptly describes the dynamic that results from their divergence:
There is war in this world, a war between morality and ethics. The two words are equated to disguise this – to disguise the fact that the ethics of the individual and the morals of society have diverged and moved far away from each other. For only morality can be manipulated and misused by the controllers for their own purposes, and only through morality can masses of people be controlled. It is up to each and every one of us to decide which side we will fight on, and we must choose a side, because today man has only two choices: to be moral and unethical, or to be ethical and immoral. Do you listen to society and what others tell you, or do you listen to the laws of life, the inner voice that nature has written into your heart with its own hand?” — Chnopfloch: Fachidioten, Gurus und der Krieg [Pundits, gurus and the war. Aug 2021]
How does this dynamic happen?
As already described and deduced in many of my articles, civilizations are cultures that run on a program for controlling the world and reality. All their efforts are directed towards the prevention of undesired events with probability bordering on certainty and to make desired events occur with equal probability. This requires a categorization of phenomena into positive and negative ones, which are then met with standardized actions. Both categorization and standardization are nothing but arbitrary determinations. From the beginning, and to the present day, those determinations are always oriented to the interest of the person or group who makes them. Three facts, immoral in terms of Natural Law, follow from this:
1) The determinations codified in law enforce the ethics of the lawmaker. As they deny the freedom of the “subjects” they are intrinsically sociopathic in nature, i.e., immoral under Natural Law;
2) The actions prescribed by the lawmaker are often – and the prescribed sanctions for non-compliance are always – associated with violence, or the threat thereof, against recipients of orders. Thus, they are always immoral under Natural Law.
3) Following rules and carrying out orders is always immoral because the ethics of the recipient of the order play no role in their implementation. Either the order-follower must violate their ethical understandings, bend their ethics to fit the rules, or omit ethical considerations altogether. This is unethical according to Natural Law and therefore immoral and therefore violates the Law. To put it mildly:
Legal and illegal do not matter at all in terms of Natural Law.
My long-time readers will know that the author of these lines lives in Auroville, a city founded in 1968 in service to the principles of a special form of Natural Law: Integral Yoga. Following the teachings of the Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo, city founder Mirra Alfassa, known here only as “The Mother,” stipulated that there should be no government, no courts, and no police. No laws should apply, no money should be used internally, and no mind-altering substances should be consumed. Politics, tradition, and conventional morality were to have no influence on the actions of the residents, and gossip was to be avoided. They were to live “a life divine, but no religion” (Mirra Alfassa), aligning their behavior with the highest consciousness available to them and resolving their conflicts through good will. Why? Because all elements negated here influence, corrupt or even prevent people’s free decision for the good. Only a decision made completely freely, taking into account the objective criteria of right and wrong, can be morally right and good. Thus, in his letter to the Roman Christians, Saint Paul states that they were freed from the old, man-made law to freely follow their conscience, according to the message of the Son of God:
But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. – Paul: Epistle to the Romans, 7:6, New Living Translation.
The objective difference of right and wrong.
And this brings us to the key point, which is the extent to which morality is not relative but objectively determinable. Moral relativism means that any moral view is considered to be equivalent to any other, because they are all basically arbitrarily introduced rules. That this is the case in practice cannot be denied. The multitude of existing moral systems testifies to this. However, this does not at all mean that all moral rules lack a concrete foundation. We find that certain rules – roughly speaking, those compatible with the “Golden Rule” – have been valid in all cultures and at all times. This already speaks for their universal effectiveness in the world of man. It shows that persons who thought ethically have everywhere come to the same observations about human nature and that they knew that every individual action has social consequences. Specifically, it can be observed that communities that obey Natural Law tend to increase freedom, justice, and prosperity; where Natural Laws are consciously or unconsciously disobeyed, mores deteriorate, injustice increases, and the community tends toward unfreedom and even slavery.
Therefore, attentive observers of the human condition at all times and in all places concluded: To take something from others without necessity that belongs to them – property, mates, life, health, security, freedom, truth – is unethical, immoral and wrong. Or, to put it positively, a right is an action that causes no harm to other sentient beings. If you confront people who believe morality is in the eye of the beholder with harmful acts such as rape, slavery, murder, or loss of property, they will concede that such acts are bad, regardless of the cultural background – unless you are talking to psychopaths. So it does matter what the moral rules are.
Evolutionists assume that every characteristic of a living being is passed on from one generation to the next because it offers an evolutionary advantage. Believers of all religions assume that the Creator has wisely endowed man in such a way that he can distinguish right from wrong actions and is free to make use of this knowledge.
Thus, the inherent agency of conscience in all human beings, its purpose and its usefulness in fulfilling that purpose are rather rarely openly disputed. We get called by our nature to listen to our conscience. Moral relativism denies conscience, obedience suppresses it altogether. Both attitudes are categorically wrong, not only because they are immoral, but because they open the door to evil. Totalitarianism requires this ethical poverty.
Why is the unquestionable knowledge of right and wrong necessary?
Following the conscience, which intuitively knows the objective difference between right and wrong, is to the advantage of all of us, because only morally right actions lead to order, peace and justice. Conscience can be drowned out by rational consciousness or emotions. That is why it is important to become rationally aware of the intuitive contents of conscience as well, and it is equally important to cultivate an empathic understanding of other sentient beings’ desire for freedom (i.e., their pursuit of rights). Knowledge of the rules that govern the human condition – in other words, knowledge of Natural Law – are indispensable to the formation and preservation of a polity that serves freedom, peace, happiness, and justice. What is self-evident in engineering, namely that a functioning construct can only be formed on the basis of correctly ascertained facts and understood principles, is also true in sociology: behaviours that ignore or deny objective morality can never result in a positive outcome; society then simply does not “function” but becomes mired in all sorts of suffering. More than that:
The Law of Life isn’t what governs life, it’s what fosters life, and anything that fosters life belongs to the law… A biologist would probably say that what I’m calling the Law of Life is just a collection of evolutionarily stable strategies—the universal set of such strategies, in fact. – Daniel Quinn: The Story of B
Ivan Illich, like many others, was convinced that
There is, in other words, a given human nature, just as much as there is a given physical nature, and a society can only be good insofar as its principles are drawn from insight into this nature. [Illich’s book] “Tools for Conviviality” had its roots in his fear that the society he was writing about not only threatened human nature but was on the verge of abolishing it altogether. – David Cayley: Ivan Illich. An Intellectual Journey
This abolition did not begin with the application of genetic manipulation or chip implants. It results from a long process of erosion of our ability to know ourselves, that is, to live freely within the framework of what is called the Law of God, Natural Law, Dharma, the Law of Life, or Integral Yoga.
We do well, then, to pay as much attention to the knowledge of cause and effect in social affairs, which is rooted in our human nature, as we do to the laws of physics. The law of human life, i.e., the one evolutionarily stable strategy for human action, is Natural Law as practiced by each and every culture ever since the birth of the genus homo – just not by our culture, civilization.
“Oh!”, I hear sarcastic-sounding voices exclaim. “You’ve done a great job of that where you live.” Indeed, the Auroville of the 21st century is a suitable example to prove Natural Law – the law of cause and effect. Precisely because the insights of the “Mother” remain largely misunderstood and unpracticed, precisely because there is widespread ignorance of karmic action among the population, precisely because the majority of us do not “die to law and are no longer captive to its power,” precisely because we trust authority more than our own knowledge and conscience, have police patrolling the streets, call the courts, get paid for our services to others, worship false idols, don’t always take honesty seriously, play politics, let ourselves be intimidated by officials, take mediated information at face value, and confuse rule-following with morality, Auroville is currently a place that is not at the service of Truth, and therefore not exactly the city the world has been waiting for; for it is precisely because we collectively have not listened to our conscience that our polity has long been failing in its purpose. The fact that we think twice about what we say in public and that the official mold neighs at all corners shows our utter terror of the “Divine Anarchy” the Mother wanted to open up for us.
On the importance of freedom
There, this is the real topic we are talking about. Let us call a spade a spade: anarchy – or rather anarchony, the absence of a ruler – or acephaly, the absence of a headman, are what the consistent application of Natural Law amounts to socially. As the exercise of power or force and the obeying of orders or rules are invariably immoral, all government, all statehood, all forms of authority are immoral, unjust, wrong; including democracy. If in a polity free decision according to objective moral facts is inhibited or prevented, even by popular vote, then the people in it are unfree.
It deludes itself about its slavish incapacity for self-responsible action, engaging in hollow debates about constitutional freedoms and postmodern discourses on the equivalence of various definitions of freedom or morality.
In reality, however, you don’t have to write or read long books to explain or understand freedom. It is quite enough to look out over a lush lake, for example. All the beings you see there are free in the true sense of the word. Freedom is the basic regularity of all living nature. And civilization has turned against this very regularity. – Steffen Pichler: The Golden Springtime
The American bio-philosopher George Gorman elaborates on this idea:
Intentionally moving one’s own body, interacting with others, preserving one’s gains and questioning one’s options play essential roles in shaping the experiential processes of everything alive. Like ourselves, other animals and plants are skilled trackers of personal value, since nothing but their own will power is guiding them to live in terms of their personal needs and desires. It’s not automatic … It’s natural that experiencing a life without freedom is abhorrent to the living. Even the simplest bacteria behave in unpredictable ways not wholly determined by identifiable causes, including the molecular processes of their internal chemistry. Because they’re free.– George Gorman: We, the Living vol. 1
And this has consequences for the quality and ending of our lives, as book author Steffen Pichler quite correctly points out. He concludes that in nature – in contrast to the domesticated humans, animals and plants of civilized culture – there is little extended sickliness, because this restricts the freedom of development of the living being.
It is very important not to imagine a natural instance that determines the end of any living being. It is vice versa: The natural system ensures, in a somewhat automatically way, that life ends when it no longer comes along with the state of healthy freedom. In this respect, life is freedom, and if it, freedom, ceases, then life also ends automatically. – Steffen Pichler: The Golden Springtime
In view of such considerations, I have long been asking myself whether we, insofar as we obey the state and the pressure of mainstream views, can actually still be called fully alive, or whether the condition of the majority of our fellow human beings should not be described as a stage of advanced zombification.
Corruptio optimi pessima
And Auroville? What chance does the rest of the world stand if model projects like this township fail to implement Natural Law in everyday life? Well, first of all, one can state with Shakespeare that „Lillies that fester smell far worse then weeds“ (Sonnet 94). The stench of rotten thought emanating from the dominant culture of our day is horrible enough. But the same stench becomes much worse when it emanates from those people or places to which one has looked with admiration: the pop star who has had his parts sung by others; the professor who copied his thesis from the works of others; the priest who abuses his protégés; the environmental protection organization that got paid off by the dirtiest corporations; the peace party that starts a war under cheap pretexts; the rebel who surrenders to a public mania just when her ability to criticize is needed most urgently; and of course the intentional commune that no longer understands its own principles and therefore practices the exact opposite of what they actually intended.
It is extremely painful when noble goals turn into something that causes damage, because it thoroughly destroys the hope for a better world, and it effectively puts the misguidedness of people on display. Ivan Illich, with reference to the canonized church teacher and Natural Law thinker Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), when characterizing such conditions applied the Latin saying corruptio optimi pessima –
The inhabitants of Auroville, more so than ordinary people, have the task of learning to understand their principles, the core of their humanity, anew, to right the abundance of wrongs. The fact that the founding documents of the city still hold undiminished validity, despite the massive undermining by the neoliberal system, can be an advantage in this. The tension between what is and what ought to be, between reality and utopia, creates irritations and pains that eventually reach a breaking point that forces a decision between “Just keep going!” and “Stop the nonsense!” I believe that this breaking point has arrived, locally, nationally and globally.
Social goodness does not manifest all by itself. First of all, you have to know what is good without a doubt, you have to want it with every fiber of your being, you have to consciously decide for it and finally you have to actively implement it. People must and people will put their entire existence on the line for it, because anything else would be a decision in the sense of “Just keep going”, and this would be tantamount to a death sentence for the good in us, perhaps even for the species. We were not created for loneliness, slavery, falsehood and greed. The cries of every bottle-feeding newborn, the rebelliousness of every latchkey child, and the incessant rebellion of the adolescent, about whom even the ancient Sumerians already complained, ought to tell us just as plainly the obvious truth about our inhuman culture as our own discomfort before leaving home in the morning, our stomach churning at encounters with so-called authorities, the sense of meaninglessness in our lives, our addiction to “forgetting,” or the irrationally destructive behavior we exhibit in conflict situations. No one wants to live like this, and yet the overwhelming majority have subordinated themselves to the machine, to the system of the locust. The regularities embedded in Natural Law give all seekers of freedom, justice and brotherhood a stable foundation on which they can build, using the abilities they have been given. Those, however, who believe that they cannot live without authority have their further path clearly marked out for them: As wage slaves, gullible voters, target group members, consumers, taxpayers, cannon fodder and guinea pigs for experimental therapies, they will eke out their lives by the sweat of their brow until the end of their pointless days. And if they are not allowed to die, they will slave away forever.
I haven’t been shopping since March 15, 2020, the first day of curfew in India. Lockdown is the neologism for this – for once an apt expression, because it is a technical term originally used by prison administrations. I haven’t been to the doctor for a year, until last week not even to the dentist, although there was every reason to do so. I don’t go to the movies anymore, I don’t enter an office of the administration anymore, I don’t enter a cashier’s office of a bank anymore. I no longer travel, neither short nor long, neither by cab nor by train or even by airplane, the latter of which has become completely impossible. A book manuscript lies unprinted on my hard drive, gathering digital dust because the mere thought of crowded shops and city streets already feels suffocating. Invited by friends I went to lunch at a tiny cookshop that didn’t require specific clothing; I couldn’t enjoy it, though. I did resume work at the library, mainly at the insistence of the manager, who assured me I didn’t have to follow any rules, even if everyone else did. In the office, to myself, I have time to catch my breath again. But the way there, a few kilometers by bicycle is an ordeal. Not that anyone would talk to me about the missing mask, no. I wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all; I can’t stand the sight of people anymore and avoid being seen on my part. Me and people, we are a divorced couple.
There is a long history of early traumatization; life since hasn’t been too kind either. Of course, I could try to see the positive sides of life. Why don’t I try to see it more positively? Why don’t I start anew somewhere else? Why don’t I… ? – I guess because by now I lack the necessary faith that the grass is greener elsewhere. As I said, there is a long history, but it does not matter for what I have to say: That all of us individual cases with our human problems, our likes and dislikes, our opinions, insights and realizations, we don’t count any longer. Beyond our function as consumers, employees, taxpayers, cannon fodder, we have long since ceased to play any role in the way matters get handled. We are merely the objects of observation and control, generic members of statistically ascertainable norm groups. Gendered, risk-evaluated, labeled, sorted, directed, manipulated, exploited, eventually dumped.
The raised index finger for all those without a mask. We comply with the Corona rules.
[Billboard by the City of Berlin, paid from taxpayer money]
Corona just caps it all off. Hardly any intellectual fails to mention that the Corona State finally flushes to the surface what had been pushed underwater for so long: all kinds of toxic garbage, looted goods, gasping victims of terror, gnawed-up floaters, fears and traumas, screwed-up biographies, stolen dreams, lost raison d’être, abdicated freedom. Add to all that the codified injustice, the structural violence, and a mountain of epistemic baggage that keep our polities stuck in unreformable rigidity. In the face of nightmare societies competing for the worst way , one can hardly tell the difference whether I am writing about Germany, India, or say, Mexico.
A lot of words that, in short, are supposed to explain why, these days, my trust in the human capacity to bond, in the manifest social structure and – yes, also – in the specific individuals that surround me, has slipped away. I have lost the desire to see anyone anymore, lost the joy of hearing what is going on with this or that person. In the same way, when I think of the big names of our time – people from music, philosophy, politics, science, etc. – I’d rather they kept their mouths shut, because what comes out of there usually offends the mind. If the verbal garbage remained just words – ok. But unfortunately the call for ostracizing the dissenters and the demands for harder punishment of “deniers”, along with all the other fantasies of social barbarism get implemented without big scruples only too soon after… and the whole pack of established media provide a platform for the hysteria. The state’s regulations regime has overtaken many a satirical exaggeration within a few weeks by issuing ever more repressive orders. And then there are the non-state ‘measures’. A friend from Berlin writes:
“The day before yesterday I was actually physically attacked for the first time in my adult life in the park by an aggressive but at the same time somehow calculating man. Afterwards I did some asking around and in fact it happened to my roommate in a very similar way. The girlfriend of another acquaintance was slapped in the subway; another one was yelled at in the supermarket because of the distance rules. People here are starting to go crazy.”
There is an archaic conception of man at work, incompatible with my worldview: it’s not autonomous individuals endowed with dignity, embedded in loving communities, who shape their lives in a self-responsible manner, but fear-driven government subjects incapable of making rational decisions, who must be kept on a leash for their own good and who — as self-appointed guardians of the status quo – habitually obey pre-emptively. Real dangers have given way to obscure statistical risk potentials, your neighbor is always a danger to your life, denunciation is a civic duty, children’s birthday parties get broken up as criminal gatherings. How quickly the turnaround has happened is frightening in itself already, because as far as typical features of Nazi Germany were concerned, the rule went, NEVER AGAIN! But already in early May, six weeks into the curfew, my mother wrote from rural Black Forest:
“My physiotherapist, who is friends with a policeman, told me that in [the county seat] 1000 people call every day to report friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances to the police – for Corona misconduct!”
In the eyes of a not insignificant part of the population, freedom and human dignity are no longer inalienable rights, but privileges that have to be earned by conformity – and thus are reduced to absurdity. Civil and human rights dwell in best company with other terms that have been usurped into Newspeak: Attitudinal journalism operates as “reporting”, Nazis masquerade as “Antifa”, “solidarity” is understood as forced conformity, “development aid” drives whole continents into poverty, “humanitarian intervention” stands for genocide, “vaccination” has become another word for genetic manipulation, forcing women about to give birth to wearing masks is part of “health care”, the authoritarian regime pretends to be a “democracy”, mob rule prides itself on “civil courage”, the middle finger replaces the “index finger”… I could go on like this for hours and literally fill a whole dictionary – the neo-liberal dictionary of falsehoods, which I already mentioned in earlier articles.
Those who feel reminded of George Orwell have long since no need to fear overstretching the comparison. Dystopia can hardly be manifested more clearly and obviously. In the novel “1984” Orwell writes:
“[‘blackwhite’] means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.”
Introduced later, the technical term for “doublethink” is “cognitive dissonance.”
Here the question arises how after Corona — assuming the nightmare has a happy ending — a new togetherness can come about at all, given that such a massive slide into barbarism was supported by virtually all governmental, social, scientific and economic institutions, but especially by so many fellow human beings. How can one restore that trust to one’s arbitrary neighbor that is needed to build a relationship, how can one again look into the eyes of the perpetrators, of whom one knows that in their world one exists merely as an object?
I have my doubts that a simple “No hard feelings” approach is enough, because I cannot dismiss Schopenhauer’s remark that “to forgive and forget is to throw precious experience out of the window”. Prior to forgiveness, there must be recognition of one’s own transgressions and subsequent repentance. It involves the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions, to accept punishment, to repent, to make amends or at least to mitigate the damage. Then, and only then, may one forgive, but rather not forget. We must not allow ourselves to wrap the cloak of silence around the people’s role in the oppressing, torturing and murdering of millions, as we did after the disaster of the Third Reich, because at that time the historical traumas of hundreds of millions of people in dozens of nations remained buried deep in the individual and collective psyche. Uncured they continued to smolder within the closets of apparently purified hearts and minds, affected the world view of three or four subsequent generations, and found expression during the so-called pandemic in a mass hysteria unlike any other in history. The failed Denazification of post-WW2 – failed because it got stuck with mere criminalization of identified perpetrators — must be made up for in our present.
Denazification today means de-coronification. Without another trial based on the Nuremberg model – because of the symbolism (tribunal and codex) it should indeed take place in Nuremberg – a credible and trustworthy restoration of social cohesion is simply impossible. The enormity of what has happened demands a complete reappraisal, while those responsible for the worst mass suffering in human history must be held accountable. The thirst for revenge, the cry for crucifixion of exposed representatives of the Corona regime, however, must under no circumstances guide the trial. As now impressively demonstrated, with the death of the Nazi grandees, self-afflicted or on the gallows, the phantom of fascism was by no means banished, but could return in full glory as self-declared anti-fascism, as totalitarianism in democratic guise. The goal of a tribunal should be to educate the population about its own role in the emergence of tyranny. Of course, it is also urgent to ensure that the main characters in the Corona scam are permanently prevented from further agitation. Immediately thereafter, however, the real clean-up work begins: our language, our institutions, our laws and regulations, our economy and currency, our international as well as our personal relationships, our relationship to technology and food, and our use of art, medicine, science – basically, simply all elements of existence – must be examined. A complete revolution of our way of life becomes due, the core of which must be the confrontation of our traumas: a personal Nuremberg for each and every one of us.
Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization’s coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas. In short, I shifted from ordinary grief via excited free-fall to deep fatigue followed by burning rage within a few weeks only.
As I haven’t been bombarded with the news as heavily as most of you were. I was enough at ease to ask questions and look for the answers in places that were not mediated, not agitated, not trying to pull me one way or another. When there was opportunity I also did some research, and I could draw from having witnessed first-hand the severe Influenza pandemic of 1996 during my service as a state-qualified geriatric nurse, when most of the personnel including myself got sick and seven inmates died before my eyes.
From the evidence I saw I came to a conclusion that not only positioned me on the side of the critics of the shoddy science behind the corona scare, but caused me to disobey orders.
What’s more – and this is my meta-critique to the situation – the factuality of the health threat becomes a side issue when regarded from a different angle.
I direct my hardline opposition to the Corona regime first and foremost against the fear-mongering, health-impeding, manipulative, cruel, out-of-proportion, brainwashing, dehumanizing, patronizing, authoritarian behaviour of media, governments and the people who regard themselves as their gate-keeping subjects, the Soap Police. I would sustain that opposition whether I believed in a serious health threat or denied it altogether. (I do neither.) What happens here – 8 bn people taken prisoners, many of them driven to the edge of existence if not actually killed, but kept from speaking their truth and exposed to psychological brutality – is outright WRONG and completely unacceptable to me, no matter the reason it happens for. This position is based on direct, lived experience, not on mediated information or hypothetical considerations. The outrage runs deep, for it has a valid foundation built from suffering and pain.
During those months, when anger gave me funny ideas, I wrote satirical pieces sharply attacking the regime: the incapability of allopathic medicine to understand life in any other way than mechanistically, the irrational fear of micro-organisms, the death-phobia, the permanent irradiation with disjointed factoids, the manufacturing of news, the total disregard for people’s needs, feelings and traditional understandings, or the pre-emptive surrender to the totalitarian order to shutting up anyone and everyone who showed even the slightest sign of disagreement. Where are those pieces? Am I going to substantiate my opinions and claims with official figures, scientific reports and case studies?
Well, apart from the quick note of last Monday – a few lines of concern and two links – I decided that first of all, we have spoken enough to that topic. For months all the other oh-so-important issues, from Russiagate to North Korea, from rising poverty to dying polar bears, have been drowned out completely, even in personal conversations and alternative media. I do not want to contribute to the craze by putting more fuel into the propaganda machine of either side. Let disagreements not come between us.
It’s time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.
And what about the bright sides of life – shall we explore whether they still exist?
Secondly, although I was tempted to respond to some of my friends’ postings and the judgmental accusations and authoritarian demands therein / thereunder, I decided to drop the matter altogether; I continue to take care not to comment on Corona-related issues, at least for the time being. I do have an opinion, and so does everyone else; so what? I speak up considering that others may have good reasons to come to different conclusions. This hurts only as long as one stays attached to one’s being right. Believe it or not, you have a better chance at convincing others of your views when you enter into an open exchange, allowing yourself to change in the course of it as well. Repression causes resistance. Always.
I do empathize with the utterance of concern in dedicated places. Those who feel the need for protection from Corona have a right to act accordingly and to discuss relevant topics without getting exposed to harassment, censorship or conversion attempts.
A gentle reminder to you, my dear friends, that, in my places and in my writings, I take the same liberty to express the truth I understand asyou do in yours.
And I won’t be stopped. It’s fine by me if you signal disagreement in response to my postings so long as it happens in a respectful way. But some of you need to ask themselves why they are jumping at my bringing up the topic, trying to prove me wrong, when they rarely ever cared to comment before. If you think I”m principally fighting for Corona truth you are mistaken. The central theme of my blog was – and continues to be – the problem of civilization, the wholesale destruction, the distorted reality, the mental sickness, and the trauma it causes, and the illusion of separation it is based upon. Whether we are discussing healthcare or governance or economics or arts or racism or language or climate collapse, the issue at hand serves always merely as a case study of that central theme, and the next good example is just one media hype away.
My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash. By design it can neither be sustained nor reformed; it will end, and soon, taking most everything and everyone down with it. Those who are looking for sanity don’t empower it by listening to its voice, believing its media, letting themselves get scared into panic and then soothed by false hopes, craving its offers, buying its goods, working its chores, paying its bills, divorcing themselves from others along predetermined breaking lines, or by obeying orders; to no greater extent, at least, than necessary. This means, how to face the current situation – in which ever way you define it – should become more clear as you are listening quietly for an answer within yourself rather than from external sources, approved or not.
If you feel that you can’t stand what I’m saying, if you believe that certain views are dangerous and must never get expressed publicly you have not understood a single word of what I’ve been saying all those years.
You’ve been following or friending the wrong person all along. Do yourself a favour, take a conscious decision now, like that fellow Aurovilian did who – rather than questioning me face to face – unfriended and blocked me immediately after my one-off posting. He’s a wise man, knowing too well that I’m lost to the culture of make-believe. Saves us both some breath. In a few years it won’t matter any longer anyway.
Two negroes are taking a walk in the woods. Suddenly one of them exclaims, “Look, there’s a mushroom!” – “So what!?” says the mushroom.
Such runs a Sponti joke I’ve heard back at school; it stuck in my mind ever since. The absurdity of the described situation is hilarious as such, the choice of words is peculiar, and the multi-layered observation embedded in it is highly accurate. .
What is your immediate response to it? Are you taking offense by my using the n-word? Or do you see the underlying satirical remark on people pointing fingers at something that (or someone who) is disturbing their perceived state of normalcy? .
When I grew up in Germany’s seventies and eighties people would stand and stare at anyone and anything that seemed sort of off of what they were used to encounter: people of colour, long-haired men, bald-headed women, patchwork clothing, homeless folks, Turkish couples (her dressed in a chador or hijab, following two paces behind him), sports roadsters, wheelchair drivers, atheists, unmarried mothers, or two-headed cats, to name few typical examples. The Spontis – leftist political activists of the students’ and pupils’ movements in Germany who thought that spontaneity and humour were revolutionary elements – with their above-quoted joke pinpointed the discriminatory finger-pointing goggle-eyedness and threw it back at a blaming and shaming duplicitous society. “Everyone’s a stranger – somewhere,” the Spontis noted accurately. .
One would think that those times are over. But not only does discriminatory thought persist in backward countries like Japan where I – the tall blond long-haired stranger – got photographed and giggled at underhandedly on the Tokyo metro, and in India where I get invited to random people’s weddings or excluded from farmers’ meetings merely because I’m fair-skinned; the discrimination in our heads survived in Germany just as well as anywhere else. That it’s not showing as obviously today as it did in the seventies and eighties doesn’t mean a thing. What we are engaged in since the nineties are political correctness (pc) debates which in their mind-fucking sneakiness are far worse than the obvious separation and animosity of earlier decades. .
On the surface pc seems to address discrimination against others by shaming the use of certain vocabulary while underneath the emphasis on the right to be different crystallizes the specific phenomena of human existence – skin colours, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, nationalities and what not – into distinct identities such as politics, genders or races. For example, as pc does not address racism as such, merely its ways to express itself, a politically-correct racist simply takes over the new pc lingo for spewing hatred against people of colour. And thus we shift from nigger to negro to black to Afro to coloured to pigmented and so forth in a constant effort to evade the discussion we have to have in the overcoming of racism and xenophobia (as well as sexism, genderism, speciesism and other low-consciousness notions): that there is a focus on differences rather than similarities, that there is an arbitrariness to what marks someone as different, and – most significantly – that difference is perceived as unnatural or evil. .
The terms used for pc speech – which are really the same as those later-on used for discriminating against others – are subject to a self-perpetuating process called the euphemism treadmill. This means that whichever correct term is chosen for a person discriminated-against, it eventually turns into an insult, triggering the quest for a new pc term. .
The other day (sorry for being so day-istic) I have been writing a comment on one of my favorite topics, what makes wild communities generally work as compared to the multiple ever-increasing, ever-worsening problems that civilized societies experience. Both consist of human beings; almost everything else is different. With both populations being of the same species the traps of whether “human nature” exists and what it implies – the nature-vs-nurture debate – is irrelevant to the discussion. Me using the term “wild,” though, became an obstacle for people looking for a pc word pointing at the non-civilized. Someone argued that “wild” and “civilized” were the language of the European colonizer and that these words were discounting the deep wisdom and cultural sophistication of these “indigenous people,” as he called them. The whole notion of “wild” needed to be rethought after we found out that “jungles” like the Amazon, the Mayan heartlands or the North American west coast have actually been food forests, carefully stewarded lands at the time of European conquest. .
Those were careful considerations, but like so many post-modern thoughts they have not been mindful of the difference between judgmental discriminatory dominator language and distinctions consciously introduced for communicative or research purposes. The use of “wild” alone implied “colonizer” mentality to them. .
I have to admit that it is not so easy, these days, to tell the difference when our whole language, including ordinary words like “green,” “democracy,” and “free,” are getting hijacked by the corporate dominator culture. Think of the facebook “friend” and other “social-” media “community” fakery, think of “humanitarian aid” (weapons deliveries), “peace-keeping operations” (invasions), “health insurance” (enslavement to a system of chemical poisoning) and countless further examples from the Falschwörterbuch(German: fake dictionary) of Neoliberalism. More important than the face of a book is the idea it wants to sell. As all views are perspectival, all communication of views, all writing is in a sense propaganda, with the ambiguity of words (and images) used for this or that purpose. No statement, no information can be taken at face value. The recipients’ job is to notice the sales pitch and to inquire within for the deeper truth about it. So let’s do this as an exercise in the context of my distinguishing “wild” peoples from “civilized” humans. .
Regarding “wild” peoples, there is no (other) word that is fully and properly including everybody we mean by it: modes of being that are not domesticated, not based on abstraction and abstracting, on strong hierarchies, strict separation of labour, state institutions, large numbers and growth, categorization, separation – in short, not civilization. The way I have put it in the above sentence suggests negative phrasing: not-civilized, un-domesticated, non-hierarchic etc., which I find weird because it implies a lack of something. In the same way, our culture could be called un-free, non-egalitarian etc. — which I actually use sometimes for breaking the spell of mainstream vernacular. By pointing out in which way we find a culture wanting does not describe its asili, its core and ultimate cause of collective thought and behaviour. I would like to say somehow that certain cultures exist in their own right rather than being underdeveloped predecessors to the crown of human evolution. .
In many of my writings I have clarified what I mean by “wild,” and it is so obviously not derogatory of those cultures – neither consciously nor unconsciously so – that anybody with a different opinion who notices it would have to wonder why. That the term loses its negativity anyway can be seen in the establishment of “wilderness reserves” and the emergence of the “rewilding” movement. While for some there is certainly a derogatory (or romanticizing) connotation to the word, it is the only phrase that people from across the spectrum may understand, while it is not reducing the “wild” to the negation (or lack) of “civilization.”
Is there no other positive term we could use for talking about the common denominator uniting the thousands of different communities outside of civilization?
I find “Intact” is a wonderful word, though it requires a lot of introductory explanation as to what it relates to. Basically, “intact” can only serve as a label in the face of disturbed societies, and it becomes increasingly inaccurate with civilization’s progressing encroachment. The introduction of so much as a simple idea embedded in the seemingly harmless question of an anthropologist may already disturb social peace within previously intact cultures, like asking men who have no knowledge about fertility on the tribe’s means of birth control.
I also like “free” as an attribute, but it would surely be misunderstood in the sense of our shallow civil rights.
“Primitive?” I have used it, explaining that I mean it in the sense of ‘originally, appropriately human;’ its derogatory meaning “underdeveloped” nevertheless co-vibrates.
“Tribal” – another phrase I like to use, seems almost perfect… if it weren’t abused for “tribalism” (as in “groupism”).
“Indigenous” (from Latin, born on the land)… well, no; Italians and British – melting-pot peoples – are indigenous to Europe, Japanese are indigenous to East Asia (though the Ainu have been preceding them), modern US citizens are indigenous to North America; it’s a matter of where you draw the historical-ancestral line required for someone to count as “native,”– 200, 2000, or 10000 years ago – and it does not define culture, the issue I’m pointing at when distinguishing the wild and the civilized. The whole concept of cultural indigeneity / nativity makes little sense without its historical perspective of conquest, colonization, displacement, domination and elimination of preceding peoples and species.
Struggling with finding a positive vocable for non-civilizational cultures since years, I have come to the following conclusions:
In principle, one word would be as good as another if it weren’t for the fact that, by using language, we attempt to tap into each others’ concepts for communicative purposes. So what I am looking for are terms that express shared concepts.
European languages, especially in recent decades, have been altered to a degree that they have become hardly recognizable to someone from the past. In Germany, the expression “Falschwörterbuch’”– dictionary of falsehoods – has emerged, a word that implies that meaning in language gets turned upside down so much so that e.g. ‘freedom’ has become the constitutional freedom of subjects being allowed to chose their oppressor. Has any word remained untouched, untainted? I don’t feel so.
The Falschwörterbuch means to hide what’s beneath, similar to politically-correct phrasing which hides (for a while) an ugly notion, basically the idea of separation. The “indigenous” debate falls in the same category as the “Negro” debate and the rapidly expanding gender alphabet (LGBTQIA+, for crying out loud!). As long as words are to express or whitewash the notion of complete separateness and dehumanization of Other there is no end to such debates. So when we communicate to others and interpret incoming communication, a word’s meaning has to be derived from context and/or explanation. Therefore I’m happy when people question my wording. This is the moment we actually have a debate.
Every word is a symbol for the “object” it creates in the mind, an abstraction from the world. The Latin root of “abstract” points out that a piece of the All is conceptually ripped from its context. As an abstract, symbolic representation of reality, a word both generalizes diverse phenomena, while at the same time it creates distinct boundaries where there are shades of gray. For example, “Germany” generalizes the many differences between regional ethnicities such as Bavarians and Saxons while it creates an artificial boundary to neighbouring countries such as France and the Netherlands where there live German minorities, derivates and mix cultures; it also reduces people’s identity to being born within Germany’s boundaries. Definitions of words are arbitrary, objectivity is an illusion. It is in the responsibility of each the speaker and the listener, to be aware of the virtual reality that words create. Without that awareness language-based communication, through illusory precision, paradoxically becomes more fuzzy than it needs to. The Falschwörterbuch’s successful manipulation of our shared reality seems, to me, a sure sign that we are generally not aware and awake.
My aim is the raising of awareness and the sparking of consideration of what makes us the culture we are, and wild peoples the cultures they are. The search for matching terms continues, probably with someone coining new pc ones.
As for the ancient cultures of the Mayas, Anasazi, Songhai, old Zimbabwe etc, I would classify them as civilizations, as they were based on separation; they were practicing domestication and were held together by force, for the benefit of a wealthy elite. Consequently they collapsed after having over-exploited their habitat and overstretched their citizens’ capacity for suffering. Obviously, Californian Indians, Mbuti, !Kung, and Aborigines lived a different kind of approach – which is what I’m pointing at when distinguishing between “wild” and “civilized” cultures.
Seventy-five years after the end of WW2, Germans today are so afraid of the return of Adolf Hitler that they rather evaporate in a nuclear holocaust than be seen marching for peace side by side with a purported right-winger. They overlook, though, that fascist leaders, in the guise of democrats, are already standing at the helm of a system more inhumane, violent, oppressive and deadly than any other before them, be it Ivan the Terrible, Ghengis Khan, Attila the Hun, Pol Pot, or said individual whose deeds are so easy to hate and decry in our times, when you virtually risk zilch by speaking up against them.
“The meaning of the Hitler salute”
Political correctness actually requires you to speak up against them lest you want to be called an anti-semitic tinfoil-hat nazi conspiracy-theorist. No relativization (ie. putting sth into relation) allowed whatsoever. Platform tickets obviously still sell like hot cakes when Germans wish to have a revolution in the train station; and so it has been from the early 1800s on through 1848/49, 1918/19, and 1989/90 til the present day, when civil disobedience starts with seeking permission for a demonstration from the authorities. And when they march for environmental protection, as seen recently at the XR/FFF climate strike in Berlin, carrying a hammer-and-sickle flag – for lack of imagination of real alternatives to capitalism – bloviating about capital and class struggle and expropriation, they couldn’t care less that communism disregards the non-human world just as much.
And the olive-Green Party? It’s the party that, in 1999, sent German soliders into their first war since WW2, in violation of the UN charter, and under the pretense of (contrived) Serbian “concentration camps” in the Kosovo. It’s the party that would love to see us back at war with ‘evil’ Russia, that has forgotten about its demands for leaving NATO, and that supports nuclear power plants. And we really, really love to vote for them because they make sure we’ll continue to segregate our constantly increasing household waste while the right of big industry to pollute unimpededly til Kingdom Come is never questioned (for fear of losing jobs).
Wouldn’t it be nice if we got born with a hunchback already, so we may serve our democratically chosen oppressors more obediently?
The computer solves the problems we didn’t have without it, they say – not to mention a growing number of problems it created, like the surveillance state, cyber addiction, and the possibility of fully-automated warfare, to which there is no solution other than abandoning the use of electronic processing. Similarly, high-speed transportation saves us time on trips we wouldn’t have taken before the advent of the respective transportation technology, says Austrian social philosopher Ivan Illich in his book Energy & Equity (1974).
This became especially apparent around 1900 when the mileage of passengers had increased by a factor of one hundred within just fifty years after the introduction of railroads. People picked up business at greater and greater distances, to the disadvantage of the places they lived. Beyond a certain average amount of energy per capita put into transportation, means of moving shift from metabolic energy driven to mineral fuels driven locomotion. Next thing we know is, we abandon our innate freedom of moving on our own feet, to any place and in any direction that is not legally of physically barred, in exchange for pre-fabricated routes, to approved destinations and at a price.
From the moment its machines could put more than a certain horsepower behind any one passenger, this industry has reduced equality among men, restricted their mobility to a system of industrially defined routes and created time scarcity of unprecedented severity. As the speed of their vehicles crosses the threshold, citizens become transportation consumers. – Ivan Illich, Energy & Equity, p29
As with other factors of society – wealth, power, privilege – the results of industrialization of traffic are not shared equally among its participants:
Extremes of privilege are created at the cost of universal enslavement. An elite packs unlimited distance into a lifetime of pampered travel, while the majority spend a bigger slice of their existence on unwanted trips. The few mount their magic carpets to travel between distant points that their ephemeral presence renders both scarce and seductive, while the many are compelled to trip further and faster and to spend more time preparing for and recovering from their trips. (p29)
People in industrialized countries spend four to seven times more time “on the road” than their fellow men in more traditional cultures. They travel up to one hundred times longer distances per day, using up to one third of their income for commuting to the job that pays their trips to the job. The product of the transportation industry, Illich says, is the habitual passenger, a person uprooted from her place of origin. She is rushed in a closed cabin behind the windows of which untouchable landscapes pass by. Her time is scarce, her feeling of autonomy low, and life without means of transportation provided by remote powers such as governments, automobile industry and railroad services, has become unthinkable to her. Without external help she feels immobilized.
The habitual passenger must adopt a new set of beliefs and expectations if he is to feel secure in the strange world where both liaisons and loneliness are products of conveyance. To ‘gather’ for him means to be brought together by vehicles […] He takes freedom of movement to be the same as one’s claim on propulsion […] As a result, what he wants is not more liberty as a citizen but better service as a client. He does not insist on his freedom to move and to speak to people but on his claim to be shipped and to be informed by the media. He wants a better product rather than freedom from servitude to it. (p37f)
Could it get any worse? Yes it can. From Illich’s view, the whole setup is foolishly self-defeating because not only does this set of living arrangements affect the individual, eating away on her freedom, leisure, connectedness, and wealth, it also widens the gap between privileged and burdened members of society continuously, thus putting tremendous stress on the integrity of society as a whole.
Beyond a certain threshold, further energy input makes a society’s compounded time expenditure on transportation rise significantly. In other words, speed increases for those who can pay for it while everyone else spends more time inbetween places. In Germany, for instance, more than 16% of mostly rural railroad lines have been closed since the inception of the first inter-city express connections (ICE) in 1991, the rate of train delays rose, and people spend more time waiting for connecting trains due to a thinned out railway schedule. Within cities, inequity leads to visibly slower traffic on average. Illich compared Bombay in the early seventies (where the very few cars already began to impair the flow of pedestrians and bicycles) with Western megacities like Paris, London, or New York. He found that the rate of locomotion in India was superior to that in fully industrialized countries.
Beyond a critical speed [around 25 mph], no one can save time without forcing another to lose it. The man who claims a seat in a faster vehicle insists that his time is worth more than that of the passenger in a slower one. Beyond a certain velocity, passengers become consumers of other people’s time, and accelerating vehicles becomes the means for effecting a net transfer of life-time. The degree of transfer is measured in quanta of speed. This time-grab despoils those who are left behind, and since they are the majority, it raises ethical issues of a more general nature than kidney dialysis or organ transplants. (p42)
So growing energy comes at the expense of equity – a mechanism that should ring alarm bells with anyone concerned about people’s participation in decision-making. If ecologists are right to assert that non-metabolic power creates pollution, it is also true that it corrupts the citizens, processes and institutions of society. Looking back at fourty-five years of ‘progress’ since Illich’s essay the brilliance of his analysis has not faded in the face of ‘new’ – more-of-the-same – developments. If anything, the manifestations of high-speed transportation have become more pointed in the places I have visited in my lifetime, be it in the United States, the European Union, Japan, or in India. Speaking up at the time of the Oil Crisis of the early-seventies when OPEC’s policies wreaked havoc on the transportation-intense – or should I say, transportation-addicted – economies of the West Illich took traffic as an example for pinpointing how the dominant culture phrases its problems in all the wrong terms. There is no “energy crisis”, he said, just a crisis of ever-increasing demand, and that’s as true today as it was back then. Instead of replacing fossil fuels (as the promise went, and still goes), so-called alternative energy sources help with covering the still-increasing demand for more, topping up the stagnating fossil fuels. The price both humans and the community of life must pay for our trips– habitat destruction, pollution, breakdown of social cohesion, human alienation from landbase, waste of lifetime on commuting etc pp – has accumulated to the point where civilization stands at the brink of collapse while a sixth mass extinction begins to denude the Earth of species diversity.Therefore it is only logical of Extinction Rebellion to seriously consider cuts on transportation. From understanding how addicted most of us seem to speedy transportation we can just as easily understand why both the current establishment and most of the citizenry alike resist the idea that aviation, private automobiles, container and cruise ships get restricted for the sake of life on Earth. Given the choice between death and unemployment, they opt for their sources of income. The cure that Illich saw lies in the limitation of energy use. Speaking of traffic he meant lowering the maximum speed of vehicles to around 15 mph, which implicitly translates into less distance covered per day, closer-knit communities rather than urban sprawls, fewer roads with less space and materials used etc.
High speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive. A true choice among political systems and of desirable social relations is possible only where speed is restrained. Participatory democracy demands low energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle. (p23f)
Post scriptum Ivan Illich (1926-2002) was a philosopher and catholic theologian.
I have first come across Illich’s work ten years ago when I happened to see a funny yet disquieting clip quoting from his book Deschooling Society. While he did not question civilization as such his revolutionary ponderings certainly deposited explosives close to its foundations. Unsurprisingly enough his name has almost vanished from public awareness. His findings, though, stood the test of time, so far, and his written legacy found its way into libraries all over the world. Many of his manuscripts and notes have been collected in the Illich Archive in Wiesbaden, co-founded and co-maintained by professors Reimerand Marianne Gronemeyer who base their work on Illich’s philosopy. In upholding the origial spirit, they apply those teachings to our times.